Chloe Zhao

6.5 Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015)
7.2 The Rider (2017)
7.3 Nomadland (2020)

Ting "Chloe" Zhao (China, 1982), who moved to Los Angeles during her high-school years, debuted with Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015).

The Rider (2017), a biopic of sorts, in which there are protagonists that are not human: poverty (which is everywhere in this film) and the landscape (credit cinematographer Joshua James Richards) what mixes with the plot creating a unique flow of image and action. The sky is as much a protagonist of the film as the horse rider. The parable of the hero who discovers that the real courage lies in accepting his fate, not in defying it, in living and not in dying, would not be as powerful without the landscape and the setting in a poor rural isolated society.

Brady changes the bandage on his head, revealing a horrible scar. Then he hugs his horse Gus. His father is surprised to find him home: he escaped from the hospital. Brady watches a video of a rodeo on his smartphone, presumably the one where he got injured. His 15-year-old sister Lil is mentally retarded. His father disapproves of his passion for the rodeo. Brady visits his home's tomb outside the house. He vomits. Three friends visit him. They take him to make a bonfire in the prairie. They are scared of ending up farmers instead of rodeo heroes. Brady visits his friend Lane, who is like an elder brother and who is in a rehabilitation hospital following his own fall from a horse. Lane is reduced to a wheelchair, unable to talk. He communicates with sign language. They watch together videos of when Lane was a star of the rodeo. Brady takes Lil to a saloon but then almost gets into a fight with a friend who is flirting with her. Another friend, a girl, offers him marijuana and tries to calm him down. His father owes money to the owner of the trailer. Brady finds a job as a store clerk: for him it's humiliating. His father sells the horse Gus to pay for the trailer. Brady is angry at him for losing money in casinos. Bill hires Brady to train a horse of a special breed, and Brady succeeds, showing his skills as a horse trainer. However, it's a dangerous job for someone who still has to recover from brain damage. Brady is tempted to pawn his saddle, an act that would mark the end of his rodeo career, but then decides to keep it. Victor offers him the horse Apollo, that nobody has been able to tame. Brady doesn't have the money but his father buys it for him. Brady easily tames Apollo. Brady takes a job as a horse trainer but obviously he has problems: he is still vomiting and his hand sometimes doesn't open. One day he faints and ends up in a hospital bed again. The doctor tells him clearly that horse riding will kill him. Brady teaches a kid, James, the tricks of the rodeo. Then he challenges the kid at wrestling and almost injures him. Brady visits Lane again and helps him exercise. He is still working as a store clerk. A young fan wants a picture with him. Apollo escapes and injures itself to the point that it can never run again. Brady doesn't have the guts to shoot Apollo but his father does it for him. Brady can't help meditating that humans like him and Lane who are hurt don't get shop, they have to keep living. Brady decides that he is meant for the rodeo and, despite his father's opposition, heads for a rodeo. He's ashamed of how his father ended, a loser. His father is furious but then he takes Lil to see the rodeo. Brady thinks it over and at the last minute he decides to quit and walks towards his family, hugging his father. He visits Lane one more time, and Lane uses sign language to tell him not to give up.

Nomadland (2020)

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