Lean on Pete

Boy and the Quarter Horse


06 April 2018| No Comments on Lean on Pete     by Sean Chavel



A teenager with toughness and resilience carries a story that’s analog to the type of movies we got in the 1970’s. Lean on Pete follows near impoverished 15-year old Charlie (Charlie Plummer) who meets a horse race owner (Steve Buscemi) who lets him work as an assistant. When the titular horse’s use comes to an end, Charlie wants to save the horse from a fate from the glue factory, and so he steals the horse as a kindness. What unfolds is sincere and respectful, but also doleful. The whole thing is straining for naturalism, but the movie is so far in doleful pits it’s not naturalism. It’s a pity party.

Any jolt of humor is supplied by Buscemi, who brings all the genuine naturalism to the story before he’s cut out. Chloe Sevigny makes the most of her opportunities as an actress, but it’s like she’s doing a little too much as the longtime bruised jockey of Buscemi’s horses who talks and talks and tries to lend Charlie some real world knowledge. To me, it’s canned dialogue. Travis Fimmel is Charlie’s father, who’s there to prove that the boy – even at 15 – is more mature than he. It’s justifiably pitiful, and there’s inherent drama to the story with Charlie trying to contribute to his frayed household up until he takes off with the horse.

To be sure, there are heartrending moments in this 70’s style character study throwback, and it has a handful of pretty shots of racetracks and desolate deserts. But anybody thinking a new boy and the horse companion is recipe for an inspirational movie, will find in store instead a quasi-inspirational story that’s mirthless. Charlie commits an act of violence, that is arguably necessary late in the movie, but it’s also something naturally I don’t think he would do. Charlie is a loner with honest pains, but even “Into the Wild” (a much deeper movie, by the way) had a lonesome character with some peculiar and occasional gleefulness.

Director Andrew Haigh, who wrote the adaptation from a novel, previously made “45 Years” which was a jaded but ultimately sincere look at a hollow marriage and it featured remarkable acting from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Tough stuff, but I was at least honestly moved by it. I wasn’t moved by “Lean on Pete,” but caught watching it I did admire its efforts.

122 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966, France); “The Black Stallion” (1979); “Into the Wild” (2007); “Time Out of Mind” (2014).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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