Lean on Pete
Directed by Andrew Haigh
A boy tries to rescue his favorite horse.
We want movies that move us, “but what do you do with a film that’s so emotionally excruciating that you can barely get through it?” asked Stephanie Zacharek in Time. That’s the dilemma posed by this well-crafted, “beautifully acted” drama about a lost teen who bonds with an aging quarter horse named Lean on Pete after being warned that racehorses aren’t pets. When the story finally arrives at the tragedy virtually promised from the start, “it’s almost too much to take.” But tragedy isn’t the movie’s only mode, said David Sims in The Atlantic. When Pete suffers a leg injury that spells his doom and Charley (a “mesmerizing” Charlie Plummer) rides off with him into the wide-open scrubland of the Pacific Northwest, Lean on Pete becomes “a muted, sometimes touching, other times arduous odyssey through impoverished parts of America that rarely show up on film.” Sad as it is, this is also a boy-and-his-horse movie that’s been “scraped free of everything false or sentimental about the genre,” said Alan Scherstuhl in VillageVoice.com. When terrible things happen, Charley “does all that any of us can do: He just keeps moving on.” And late in the film, we realize something startling: The movie isn’t really a Western adventure. It’s a portrait of forgotten Americans.