An often heart-breaking coming of age movie, Lean On Pete – based on the novel by Willy Vlautin – is the story of American teen Charlie (Plummer). Abandoned by his mother when he was young, and raised by a dad (Fimmel) who moves them from place to place and is barely ever home, Charlie’s dreams are simple – he just wants to live in one town long enough to play on a school’s football team.
On a run one day in the summer he comes across a racetrack and helps out horse owner Dell (Buscemi), earning himself a job in the process. It’s there he also meets a racehorse named Lean On Pete, the only comfort in Charlie’s life when events take even more of a downward turn. When Charlie learns that Pete’s own fate is in the balance, he takes the horse and sets off to find the one kind person, his aunt, whom he remembers from his childhood.
Along the way he meets people on the outskirts of American society, from a downtrodden teenage girl to a couple living hand to mouth in a trailer, and it is in these moments, and those when Charlie confides in his stolen horse, that Plummer and the movie itself really shines.
The cinematography is often stunning, from the shots of a boy and his horse against the wide open spaces of the mid-West, to the dusty, drab and somehow desperate-looking rural racecourses. And director Andrew Haigh has assembled an impressive cast to move amongst this sparse backdrop, with Plummer backed by a supporting ensemble of not only Fimmel and the always watchable Buscemi, but also Chloe Sevigny as a jockey and Steve Zahn as one of the people who befriends Charlie on his travels.
A simple, beautifully played, and moving piece of cinema.
Is Lean On Pete suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is aimed at older kids and adults – it has a 15 rating in the UK, mainly due to some strong language and two violent scenes.
Younger viewers and sensitive viewers may find the idea that Charlie – who is 15 in the movie – is travelling alone quite upsetting.
Parents should note there are some upsetting scenes, including two deaths. The second death in the movie will be especially distressing for viewers of all ages.
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