Given how much Andrew Haigh's last film 45 Years shredded me, his latest outing Lean on Pete was at the top of my festival list.
It did not disappoint.
Much effusive praise has been heaped upon the breakout performance of the young lead here and Charlie Plummer deserves the lot of it. As the central character of Charley, he brings an incredibly internalised and restrained vulnerability to a role he could have so easily over-delivered on, and he was entirely captivating.
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Read any premise of this film and understand it's so much more than what you think it might be. Boy and horse yes; but this is no My Friend Flicka.
Charley lives with his father (Travis Fimmel) whom he loves unconditionally despite the man's very obvious parenting deficiencies. When life conspires against him, Charley escapes the confines of relative security with the closest friend he has, a track-weary racehorse by the name of Lean on Pete.
Charley is such a gentle soul, and he and Pete will face some confronting realities which in the hands of a far less worthy filmmaker would have been blown out of proportion for ill-perceived audience impact.
Haigh instead stays true to the nature of his central character with Plummer on hand to imbue him with authenticity. The result is a much deeper and far more meaningful experience, and no question one of my favourite watches of the festival schedule.
* Lean On Pete is playing at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.