Monday, June 4, 2018

[Review] Lean on Pete

Lean on Pete is a heart-tugging story of a boy and a horse, as well as a stark yet beautifully-filmed portrait of a struggling-class rural America.

Charley (Charlie Plummer) is a teenage loner, living a discontent existence with his shaggy drifter of a father, who's hardly ever around. But things change for Charley when he takes a summer job working for a disgruntled old horse trainer played Steve Buscemi(!). There, Charley becomes attached to a horse named Lean on Pete, while learning the ropes of work and life in general.

Director Andrew Haigh takes the reins of this film and leads it with a sensitive hand of compassion and bluntness. The film is fraught with emotion and pathos (in fact, it's devastating at times), but not in the melodramatic sort of way. Its tone is raw, organic, and unflinching, and we feel deep sympathy and encouragement for Charley as we learn about the hardships he's endured and is currently dealing with, as well as the strength he's used to trudge through it -- unfortunately, it's all he's really ever known.

Newcomer Charlie Plummer gives an impressive central performance. It's nuanced and natural - a brilliant portrayal of a boy having to grow up too fast. Steve Buscemi is terrific as always, too. He plays the cantankerous part to perfection (no one can fire off several F-bombs quite like him), but his character has other dimensions too, as he takes on a mentor-like role for Charley -- he initially treats him well, but with a sense of tough love. However, their relationship isn't all smooth riding. Many conflicts arise as Charley realizes the guy's practices aren't the most legitimate, which eventually pushes Charley further away -- another escape off into the windswept fields and the wide horizon.

Lean on Pete is an excellent film, but it made me physically sad, so watch at your own risk.

* 8.5/10 *

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