'Lean on Pete' is a touching coming-of-age film about a boy and his horse who set out on a journey across state lines
“Lean on Pete,” based on the book by Willy Vlautin, is writer and director Andrew Haigh’s newest film, which tells the coming-of-age story of Charley Thompson, a 15-year-old kid who befriends a race horse and sets out on a journey to find his family and stability in life.
Thompson, played by the excellent Charlie Plummer, has just moved to Portland, Oregon after his single father, played by Travis Fimmel (“Vikings”), found a job there. Charley, tries to be positive and cheerful butlongs to be in a normal family, go to the same school for more than a year and make friends. One day he comes across a horse trainer named Del, played by Steve Buscemi, who gives him a job at his stable over the summer. There he meets an aging horse who he befriends named Lean on Pete. The horse is on his last legs and isn’t winning races anymore, so Del decides to sell him off to his death. This inspires Charley to steal Lean on Pete and run across state boundaries together.
This film shows how important a person’s formative years are. Children need to feel loved and have a sense of belonging somewhere; to have fun and leave all the real-life worrying to the adults. This film does an excellent job showing how a kid like Charley can fall into trouble and take a dark path if he isn't careful, and if there isn't anyone to guide him.
Throughout the film, Charley is forced to support himself by stealing food and getting odd jobs to stay off the streets. In his voyage he comes across many colorful people. Some are warm and welcoming, but some are vicious and prey on the weak. Seeing Charley attempting to keep himself afloat and navigate through this is quite heart-wrenching, and nudges the audience to think about how every person has their own story.
Shot by Magnus Jønk, the film is visually serene with brown, earthly tones and rich blue skies. The music was also effective at capturing the different emotions Charley feels through different situations. The film can feel a bit long and occasionally drag during its two-hour runtime.
“Lean on Pete” wouldn’t have been as effective if it wasn’t for Plummer’s fantastic, sensitive performance. He really does bring the film to life and captures realism and even eclipses the great supporting performances by Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny and Fimmel. Haigh’s direction is impressive, assured and paints a vibrant picture of lower-income Americana that brings Vlautin’s story to life.
This is a film that will stick with audiences long after the credits roll, and will encourage them to think about their past and the facets that shaped who they have become.
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