Posted May 03 2018

Lean On Pete - This Horse-centric Movie Gently Rocks

Dir: Andrew Haigh

Starring Charlie Plummer, Travis Femmel, Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn

At first look, Andrew Haigh’s latest movie looks a world away from his last, 45 Years. Rather than dealing with English pensioners, Haigh concentrates on American youth, right back in a heartland that hints at western imagery.

Lean On Pete (named for a race horse) however slowly reveals itself as another powerful character study, another look at how lives can be slowly lost through the most mundane of circumstances. The whole thing is held together by a remarkable performance from Charlie Plummer as Charley Thompson, a 15 year old, living with his father, who is more of an absent presence than anything else, and deeply unaware of his son’s needs. Forced to fend for himself, Charley lands a job with a local horse trainer (a suitably gnarled Buscemi) and develops a bond with a race horse, Pete, whose final race to the knacker’s yard  is clearly on the imminent cards. As events escalate, Charley finds himself drawn into increasingly desperate times, none of which are ever made overly dramatic, but which show us the ways in which some people can so easily become marginalised in their own lives.

It’s a thoughtful movie that looks at loss and loneliness in a suitably restrained manner, creating brief moments of emotional resonance that are made all the more powerful for their being underplayed.

Plummer dominates the whole movie, but the supporting cast is strong, as Charley’s journey becomes both an odyssey across the deserted lands of America as well as a personal journey for something resembling a home. Hell, there are times when even a regular bowl of cereal would do.

Very quiet, deliberately delicate and captivating in it’s own way. It doesn’t build to the devastating climax that 45 Years did. But it is nonetheless rewarding.


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