When you see a well-made film, a story that has meaning, you don’t forget about it quickly after leaving the theater. You think about it for days, contemplating the decisions that were made to create it. Lean On Pete is one such film.
Lean On Pete is the story of Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer) and is set in Portland, Oregon. Charley’s mother is no longer around and he lives with his father, Ray, who has moved them around a few times and enjoys a series of girlfriends and one-night stands. It’s clear that Ray (Travis Fimmel) loves his son and works hard to just get them by, but he may not always be the best example for Charley. Nevertheless, Charley persists and does what he can to get through each day. He fills some of his time playing sports and regularly runs.
One day, while on a run, Charley becomes interested in the local racehorse track and finds a job helping out one of the owners, Del (Steve Buscemi), who is aging and needs an extra pair of hands to manage his horses. Del pays Charley weekly and treats him well, but he is a man set in his ways and doesn’t put up with any nonsense.
Before long, Charley meets Lean On Pete, an aging racehorse who is becoming more of a liability for Del and may find himself sold off for slaughter in Mexico. Charley becomes attached to the horse and eventually wants to buy him. After some unfortunate events, and a change in his family dynamic, Charley resorts to an extreme course of action.
The rest of Lean On Pete is a saga of Charley and the horse traveling the American country between Oregon and Wyoming.
Lean On Pete is a beautifully shot film, showing the serenity and loneliness of the American West.
Charlie Plummer’s performance is captivating and is excellent in displaying a connection with this horse onscreen. Plummer’s character is often put through difficult situations and his emotions are felt strongly by viewers, who become invested in the story and find it difficult to look away.
Steve Buscemi, in his own typical way, gets right to the point and fills the role his character is meant to play for this story. It’s an interesting relationship between him and Plummer, and they are able to find a perfect balance of trust and trepidation.
Lean On Pete is simply told and is earnest in its approach. This touching story of extraordinary circumstances may well be one of the best films of the year, so far.