VOD film review: Lean on Pete
Ivan Radford | On 04, May 2018
Director: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Travis Fimmel, Chloe Sevigny
Watch Lean on Pete online in the UK: All 4 / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Andrew Haigh has done it again, with this quietly poignant coming-of-age tale that gallops along at its own unique pace.
Based on the 2010 novel by Willy Vlautin, it follows 15-year-old Charley (Charlie Plummer), who arrives in Portland, Oregon. With his single dad (Travis Fimmel on typically charismatic form) unable to care for his kid, Charlie turns to the local racetrack for company and distraction. There, he finds Del (Steve Buscemi) and his veteran quarter house, Lean on Pete, and a relationship grows between them.
It make take its name from its equine star, but Lean on Pete is not your standard horse flick; there are no romantic strings or elegaic life lessons here, just the melancholic everyday of the modern world, where surrogate father figures are too bitter to provide role models, other adults – including Bonnie, Del’s prize jockey (Chloe Sevigny) – are too muddied in failure to provide inspiration or hope. And so, when Pete’s racing days reach the end of the line, Charlie takes his friend on the run, trotting across the country in search of, well, anything.
Their journey is gently nailbiting without ever becoming overstated, powerfully emotional without descending into melodrama, and gorgeously shot, as the harsh sunlight of the open US country turns to unwelcoming night. Charlie Plummer is fantastic, his sensitive presence contrasted by Buscemi’s low-key gruffness and a intimidating turn by Steve Zahn.
Haigh anchors his film in that performance, daring to go slow when other filmmakers would rush for the horizon. America’s frontier framed through the prism of Britain’s kitchen sinks, this is a heartfelt, heart-wrenching wander through the hard times of racing tracks and truck stops that dares to let go of the reins and soak up its understated themes of family and belonging. The result is a moving companion piece to American Honey – Haigh joins Andrea Arnold as an outsider in America gazing along the fringes.
Lean on Pete is available on All 4 until 7th January 2021.