Lean on Pete

2017

Adventure / Drama

41
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 82%
IMDb Rating 7.3 10 4146

Synopsis


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Paul Allaer 8 / 10

"Lean On Pete" is bound to break your heart

"Lean On Pete" (2017 release from the UK; 121 min.) brings the story of Charley. As the movie opens, 16 yr. old Charley, who lives with his dad in Portland, Oregon, is doing his morning jog, passing Portland Downs. Although Charley doesn't have any prior experience, he is drawn to the wold of horses. By happenstance, Charley gets an opportunity to assist Del, a veteran in the horse racing business. One of the horses Del has is called Lean On Pete. Then one evening, Charley's dad is wounded critically in a fight (we're not sure what the fight is actually about), At this point we are 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out,

Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from British writer-director Andrew Haigh, whose previous film was the equally excellent "45 Years". Here, he brings the novel of the same name by Willy Vlautin to the big screen. I have not read the book, so I cannot comment to what extent (if any) the movie diverges plot-wise from the original book. As for the movie itself, I need to be quite careful as this is a plot-heavy movie. All I will say is that if you think the movie is mostly about the bond that grows between Charley and the horse, you are quite wrong. Rapidly up-and-coming Charlie Plummer (he played the kidnapped Getty in the recent "All The Money In the World") carries the movie on his young shoulders (he is in virtually every frame of the movie). Steve Buscemi is solid as Del, and Chloe Sevigny has a small role as Del's unsentimental jockey Bonnie.("they're not pets, Charley, they're just race horses"). The movie's wide open photography is eye-candy from start to finish. But in the end, this is all about Charley's story, and simple at that level, "Lean On Pete" is bound to break your heart, as you ache for Charley in his quest for a better future.

"Lean On Pete" premiered at last Fall's Venice Film Festival to immediate critical acclaim (with Plummer winning "Best Young Actor"), and it recently opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended well (5 people, including myself), although I'm guessing the 75 degree weather had something to do with that. Or it may be that hopefully this movie will find a wider audience on other platforms beyond the movie theater. Regardless, if you are in the mood for an excellent character study of a young man in search of a better life, I'd readily recommend you seek this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.

Reviewed by Irena (irenaspa) 8 / 10

Very heavy story

Athough the title of the movie gives us something soft and nice, be ready to deal with the cruelty of the real life. It is really a nice story, but for someone more than heavy for his/her expectations. Director Andrew Haigh showed us mainly how looks life of American underclass, what isn't what we can see in some profitable and big budget movies. The young actor, Charlie Plummer, gives us the picture of a good acting and what to say more than that he is the best of all other members in that cast. A natural gift to be a good actor.

Reviewed by David Ferguson 7 / 10

a boy and his burdens

Greetings again from the darkness. Andrew Haigh's follow-up to his gut-wrenching 45 YEARS (2015) is "a boy and a horse" movie that is every bit as emotionally draining, and secures his spot as one of the best filmmakers at bringing characters we thoroughly believe to the screen. It's based on the novel by Willy Vlautin and could be described as coming-of-age, slice-of-life, or even a road movie. While it's each of these, it is also much more ... though I fear it is one of this year's indie gems that will likely slide between the cracks with far too few taking the time to experience it.

Charlie Plummer was most recently seen in ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD as Getty's kidnapped grandson. Here he stars as Charley, a 15 year old boy living a half-step from poverty with his caring, but unprepared single dad (Travis Fimmel). Charley goes for morning runs around town, and his polite mannerisms include effusive praising and expressing gratitude to his dad's mistress (Amy Seimitz) for cooking a full breakfast - a rare treat for this growing teenager. Charley stumbles into part time work with has-been horse trainer Del (Steve Buscemi), a man whose career, health and demeanor have all seen better days. Horse trainer in this context is far removed from the glamour of the Kentucky Derby. Del works his horses hard for meager winnings on the county fair circuit, and when their time is up, the horses are shipped to Mexico for 'processing'.

Charley and Del form a bond based on Del's cheapness and Charley's work ethic and love of the horses. When tragedy strikes, the movie shifts to a road trip vibe, with Bonnie (Chloe Sevigny) joining on as a jockey. The three are a quasi-family but mostly they are each just trying to get along in a life that isn't always kind. When Charley ignores Bonnie's advice to not get too attached to the horses, he and the titular Pete are soon trudging across the backcountry.

Charley's life on the streets provides many life lessons, but not much joy. He crosses paths with an initially friendly addict named Silver (Steve Zahn), and along the trip, his childhood memories provide some hope - especially as related to Aunt Margy (Alison Elliott). These all feel like real folks that we could meet at any time. Some are helpful, yet the biggest life lesson of all comes roaring through these mostly quiet scenes - people care most about themselves.

This most certainly isn't a Disney-style horse movie like DREAMER, and in fact, it's much less a horse story than it is Charley's story. The core message seems to be that no matter how gentle one's soul, human nature adapts in times of desperation. It's pure cinematic pleasure to have both Mr. Buscemi and Ms. Sevigny in the same film, but the shining light here is Charlie Plummer. With little dialogue, he conveys so much about what he is thinking and feeling. His desire is to have some stability - someone or something that he can depend on. It's the security many of us take for granted. Cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jonck (A WAR, 2015) beautifully captures the endless Pacific Northwest landscapes, while also managing the intimate and thoughtful moments. Mr. Haigh's two most recent films add him to my must-see list ... I just wish there were more who would find pleasure in his displays of lack of joy.

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