Lean On Pete ⭐⭐⭐

Andrew Haigh proves he is great at quietly understating yet heartfelt drama with his first 2 films, Weekend and 45 Years, and he adapts that style as he turns Stateside with the story of a 15 year old boy who lives with his philandering single father in Portland, Oregon who works for Steve Buscemi’s racing horse owner on odd jobs taking care of his horses, in particular, Lean On Pete, who is getting on a bit and face being sold off to Mexico. This set-up lends itself to a particular type of film but when the narrative pivots in the second half, it does not go as one expects. This proves intriguing and extremely timely in a film that feels a bit flat in the middle. Charlie Plummer who plays the young boy is particularly affecting and he anchors the film confidently as it focuses solely on his POV all of the time, at the expense of a cast that feels disposable and inconsequential as they disappear altogether for the rest of the story (and that includes the titular horse too). Based on a novel by Villy Vlautin, the film is deliberately paced and rich in emotions. It is a depressing, though not totally hopeless, watch that tries to shine a light on those who could have easily slip through the cracks in our society right now. An admirable and poignant effort but one that is limited and stymied by its very nature as a typical piece of American indie drama.

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