Film Review – Lean on Pete (2017)

Title – Lean on Pete (2017)

Director – Andrew Haigh (Weekend)

Cast – Charlie Plummer, Travis Fimmel, Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Amy Seimetz

Plot – Disadvantaged teenager Charley (Plummer) finds meaning and friendship with unloved racing horse Lean on Pete, coming at an important time in the youngster’s life as he faces a whole new set of trials and adversities.

“Are you strong?”

Review by Eddie on 21/11/2018

Becoming a film you don’t expect it to be, Lean on Pete is a gritty coming of age/life shaping drama that’s drenched in realism, heartbreak and sorrow that is very far from the teenager and out of favour racehorse experience you think it’s going to become.

Featuring a star making turn from Charlie Plummer, who for most is recognisable from last year’s disappointing All the Money in the World, as teenager Charley, Andrew Haigh’s slice of life drama is not an easy viewing feature but it’s a well-filmed tale with a collection of solid supporting turns from recognisable faces Steve Buscemi as depressive horse owner Del, Travis Fimmel as Charley’s alcoholic father Ray, Chloe Sevigny as hard done by jockey Bonnie and Steve Zahn as unemployed slacker Silver, that sadly fails to connect emotionally in the way we needed to fully invest in Charley’s increasingly desperate and in many ways, unbelievable plight.

Turning from what we expect to be a typical yarn about the underprivileged Charley finding hope and salvation in Lean on Pete, a 5 year old horse that is reaching the end of the line as a racing horse, Haigh’s film around the half-way mark begins to make its strides towards its real goal and its where the otherwise highly proficient film begins to feel like its losing its way, before eventually finding itself in the film’s final scenes.

It’s nice to be surprised in an expectation sense and Haigh was clearly uninterested in delivering a product that has been done before, but by keeping us at an arm’s length to many of these characters, including never getting to fully connect with Charley and especially in his friendship with Pete, Haigh’s film undeniably holds a power but it feels like only a small portion to what it could’ve been had we been allowed to invest ourselves more into these characters lives, who all feel slightly underdeveloped and underutilised.

Lean on Pete is however a beautifully filmed tale, captured with thought and visual splendour by DOP Magnus Nordenhof Jønck, while Plummer’s turn as the unfortunate Charley is a noteworthy moment in a career which looks to be one of the industry’s most rapidly rising stars.

Plummer is in command of his turn and while Charley is somewhat cold and distant creation in certain departments, there’s an underbelly of emotion and thought at the heart of this young boy that Plummer mines and brings to the forefront come the films later stages. A highlight of a film that feels in more ways than one like a missed opportunity to create something truly great.

Final Say –

Lean on Pete has moments of brilliance and feels set-up to be quite the emotionally powerful experience but after a strong start, Haigh’s film falters through its mid-section, only to find redemption in its end game. Not the horse and boy tale you’re likely to be expecting, Lean on Pete has a number of impressive components that disappointingly never gel to a truly grand whole.

3 table manner lessons out of 5

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