Lean on Pete is a powerfully emotional, coming of age epic. Charlie Plummer plays Charley Thompson, a 16 year old boy who lives with his Dad, Ray. Struggling to make ends meet, Charley goes out and finds a job working for horse racer Del (Steve Buscemi). He soon bonds with the horse “Lean on Pete”. As Charley’s life is upended, his bond with Pete deepens leading to them undertaking an impossible journey together.
During the film I recalled Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, and specifically The Crossing which has a similar plot. As the story changed it felt reminiscent of a Dardenne’s Brothers film. Ultimately, I realised that this film just put me in mind all of the great stories that really seemed to capture the emotions of being truly poor in a modern first world country. Moments of triumph and despair for Charlie during his journey are deeply affecting.
Charlie Plummer is extraordinary in the lead role. His vulnerability and earnestness are very endearing, making the tragedies that befall him (tragedies such as meeting Steve Zahn) all the more heart-breaking. Supporting roles are also incredibly natural, including a wonderful turn from Steve Buscemi as the jaded horse owner, and Chloe Sevigny as his long suffering Jockey.
The constantly changing story really kept me engaged. The nature of Charlie’s journey changes throughout, and is never predictable. The script by director Andrew Haigh (director of the quiet British film, 45 Years) feels very natural. Haigh’s flexibility as a director also deserves credit as he has just as evocatively captured rural America as he did little England. The direction and photography are beautifully understated. There are some breathtaking shots of the American wild but all the more often we’re confined in tiny rundown settings.
Andrew Haigh has written and directed another intimate and personal drama full of heart wrenching poignant moments.
5 / 5