Director: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Charlie Plummer, Chloë Sevigny, Travis Fimmel, Steve Buscemi
Anyone else sing Bill Withers at the mere mention of this movie? Just me? Fine.
45 Years director Andrew Haigh returns with horse-based drama Lean on Pete, teaming with indie heroes A24 and a very decent cast. After taking a job at a local horse track to earn some much-needed money, fifteen-year-old Charley (Plummer) strikes a connection with aging racehorse Lean on Pete. Upon hearing Pete is due for slaughter, Charley runs away with Pete crossing the new American frontier in search of family and a new life.
Not quite the equine adventure the marketing may have led you to believe, Lean on Pete is slower than an old racehorse and almost as enjoyable too. The first act is where the movie thrives and is strongest – Charley’s dynamic with his father provides an interesting backdrop, as does his relationship with surrogate father-lite Del Montgomery (Buscemi), the washed-up horse trainer that shows Charley the ropes – Buscemi playing the bedraggled yet charming trainer well. Chloë Sevigny’s advice spouting jockey also provides a nice addition for the time she has in the movie. It’s when Charley goes it alone that Lean on Pete becomes near-unbearable at times. Nothing to do with Charlie Plummer’s performance, in fact, he’s very good as the troubled, confused youngster desperately seeking attachment and acceptance. The initial drama of the situation dissipates fairly quickly as the same circle of events happen constantly. Hope, despair, run away. It’s the circle of strife that plays out and by the end, the intended emotion Lean on Pete tries to eke out is so far gone, it’s admirable that the movie still intends to rope you in.
The visuals are the most interesting aspect, however much the beautiful landscapes are there to draw you in and have you marvel at the clearly gorgeous backdrops. The sweeping vistas of the American frontier cover up a meandering story – an extremely glum story with a mawkish and saccharine ending. If you’re expecting to leave Lean on Pete with a smidgen of inspiration or good feels, you will be sorely out of luck. Every event that occurs is for the worse and Charley never really gets a break. It’s just…a bit soul-sucking.
The depth of character that Haigh aims for may work for many people and it’s clear that he really was aiming, but the depth of depression the movie gave me left me feeling little for the characters, despite what happens throughout. A rare misstep for A24, Lean on Pete had me wanting to trade places with the titular equine by the bitter end.
September 8th 2018