AUTHENTICITY can be a powerful cinematic tool and it’s an approach that feels soaked into the very bones of this fact-based story of one young man getting back on his feet and searching for a sense of self following a life-changing injury.

As with her debut feature Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Beijing-born writer-director Chloe Zhao enlists non-professional actors essentially to re-enact still fresh events, grounding things in stayed realism and elegantly blurring the line between fact and fiction.

Brady (played by Brady Jandreau) is a young bronc-rider left with a conspicuous, stapled scar from surgery following a brutal rodeo injury. He lives on his family’s South Dakota ranch with his tough father and a sister who has autism, doing his best to pick himself up by his cowboy bootstraps and carry on.

The film explores what it means when an essential part of someone’s life, in Brady’s case his ability to ride at a professional level, is taken away. This loss is like being injured all over again; he has already seen how it can drastically change the course of a person’s existence in his best friend Lane who is now disabled after his own accident.

Zhao explores with a deft hand and sensitive touch the inner turmoil and sense of crisis that Brady is going through. As she gracefully tells a compelling story, it highlights the dangers that these riders face and what draws someone to that lifestyle. Is it a need to follow in family footsteps? A quick way to earn cash? Or a higher calling felt in the soul?

It’s a meticulous and thoughtful, beautifully realised and visually resplendent film that really gets under the skin of its central character and makes him a relatable figure; we get to see how he survives day-to-day, his coping routine, his now lost sense of existence in a rugged, dusty landscape he feels so part of but where he can no longer live out a life that was once set for him.

It manages to be emotional without being sentimental, lyrical yet wholly accessible and shot through with captivating naturalism.