Lean on Pete – Film Review by Killian Laher
Director: Andrew Haigh
Writers: Andrew Haigh, Willy Vlautin (novel)
Stars: Travis Fimmel, Steve Zahn, Charlie Plummer
Lean on Pete is an adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s 2010 novel of the same name. The book is a well-written, if a little bleak tale of a young boy who escapes from the grim reality of his life through an ailing racehorse. Director Andrew Haigh has resisted for the most part the temptation to sweeten the story by smoothing away the rough edges of the narrative.
Charley, played by Charlie Plummer (who recently played John Paul Getty III in All the Money in the World) has a fairly mundane existence living with his father Ray (Travis Fimmel), but before long hooks up with wizened horse trainer Del (Steve Buscemi). This takes him on a journey where he befriends the racehorse Lean on Pete.
The story never lapses into sentimentality. Rather it maps Charley’s journey meeting various unsympathetic characters, most of whom are different shades of downright cruel. It’s like the Nick Cave song People Ain’t No Good brought to life on the screen albeit with some fine cinematic shots of the American desert. Charley himself at times has no option but to descend to a similar level of cruelty to those who he encounters.
It’s not an action-packed film, nor is it overly slow and thoughtful. Though finely acted, the bleak story has the effect of an eloquent punch in the stomach over its two hour running time, but an accomplished film nonetheless.