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Lean on Pete


Stars: Charlie Plummer, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Amy Seimetz, Travis Fimmel, Steve Zahn, Alison Elliott

Director: Andrew Haigh

Although its central theme concerns the relationship between a teenage boy and a horse, this is not a family film. Populated largely by lowlifes and homeless people, the story focuses on Charlie (Plummer), who lives with his father (Fimmel) in Portland, Oregon and suffers a series of 'girlfriends' (Charlie's mother having long departed). The vengeful husband of one storms round one night, putting Charlie's dad in hospital.

The youth, meanwhile, has found a job at the local stables, working for Del (Buscemi), a shady trainer with a diminishing string of 'quarterhorse' racers, which run over short distances on dirt tracks.

Del and his female jockey (Sevigny) befriend Charlie and keep him in funds, although she warns him not to get too friendly with Lean on Pete, a 'rubbish' five-year-old (the film could have been called For the Love of Pete were it more family-orientated), who has won a couple of races but seems destined, like most of Del's nags, for the slaughterhouses of Mexico.

The film seems more than its length, going on for some time even after the horse drops out of the picture, as Charlie makes off with the animal and hunts for his only other relative, an aunt last heard of living in Wyoming. 'Just gotta keep goin',' he tells the horse as they trek across the country.

Despite the central theme of boy and horse, this is pretty bleak fare, and the kid's mumblecore acting makes his dialogue often difficult to hear.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2017. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye/Curzon. Technicolor.
120 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 10 May 2018