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Lean on Pete

Andrew Haigh

British director Andrew Haigh (Weekend, 45 Years) turns his gaze, somewhat surprisingly, on the open plains of the American mid-west for his latest film. Adapted from the novel by Willy Vlautin, Lean on Pete is a gently told tough story about a misfit teen whose life is changed by his friendship with a broken-down race horse.

Our hero is the likable Charley (Charlie Plummer) who has just arrived in Portland with his well-meaning but bit-of-a-loser dad. Despite his best intentions, his father struggles to make ends meet and sometimes even to make it home at night. Charley’s life revolves around little joys, like having a decent breakfast or staying in one town long enough to try out for the high school football team. One morning he stumbles across the local racetrack and meets unscrupulous horse owner Dell (Steve Buscemi). Dell offers Charley a job, but it is in his horse, a chestnut gelding called Lean On Pete, that the young man really finds something to live for. When the reality of what might happen to this ageing animal become clear to Charley, he takes matters into his own hands, stealing Dell’s truck and trailer and taking to the road.

Lean on Pete is a classic coming-of-age tale and a beautiful portrait of the real bond that can exist between humans and animals.