Lean on Pete review: Andrew Haigh’s film will envelop you into its world and refuse to let you go for 2 hours

Lean on Pete review by Awais Irfan.

Lean on Pete review
Lean on Pete review

A24 are an indie studio at the top of their game – from Moonlight to Lady Bird, The Florida Project and more. And now they’ve given us Lean on Pete, another triumph for their catalogue of triumphs.

A racehorse running out of game, Lean on Pete’s days as a champion look slim. For Del (Steve Buscemi), a horse that can’t win is a lost cause. But when the young, naïve Charlie (Charlie Plummer) comes along to assist Del with his horses, he develops a bond with our eponymous animal, cutting him loose and heading across the country with Pete on a personal journey. And, similarly to director Andrew Haigh’s last film 45 Years, Lean on Pete is a film that puts its characters through the wringer – for a story supposedly about a horse, it’s a very human film about very human pain and problems. And so rich and moving.

But, that’s just the thing: Lean on Pete isn’t really about a horse. It’s about Charlie: a kind-hearted boy that has sadly been dealt one crap hand in life. But when he finds solace and friendship in Pete, the pair head on a journey that is utterly heartbreaking and entrancing to watch. Haigh’s screenplay carves its myriad of characters out with such a palpable, authentic edge; it’s a film that is seemingly quite simple on the surface, it’s fairly uneventful and slow-paced, the story is purposefully paced and careful but it’s so superbly realised that you can’t help but soak it all in – enthralled by the detail and meticulous craft that Andrew Haigh displays. He revels in the poetic nature of the open-American landscapes, creating a subliminal piece that is meditative yet utterly riveting. We care for Pete; there’s naivety and charm to him, he’s likable and easy to root for and empathise with. The film takes him on a roller-coaster journey throughout, and to some exuberant heights and dark lows, but it all feels seamless and effortless in the progression of the character and the story.

Lean on Pete review
Lean on Pete review

Lean on Pete is deeply stirring as a result; it’s a film of encounters and dialogue exchanges but they all feel so rich and powerful and Haigh’s astute writing means that the film packs quite the emotional punch – starting off as an optimistic and offbeat affair, full of ineffable charm, but becoming a very poignant and heart-wrenching drama by the end. It’s a testament to Haigh’s masterful storytelling, going from very quirky and hilarious one moment to moving the next and having the transition never feel jarring or even very obvious. The performances are exceptional; Plummer, following some great work in All the Money in the World earlier this year, is a revelation. It’s a very subtle performance, but one that gets the balance of emotion and charm just right – he is the heart of the story and he really carries this film with such ease. Travis Fimmel, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn and Steve Buscemi all make up a stellar supporting cast too, each bringing their own punch and importance to the overall narrative – the latter, especially, is a scene-stealer. But it’s Haigh that is the star; he has crafted a patient yet compelling character-piece that is sweeping and gorgeous. It’s a film that will envelop you into its world and refuse to let you go for 2 hours; poignant, charming and heartfelt. As soon as the credits rolled, I was wanting to go back in. I could have sat and watched Lean on Pete for hours more. It’s a masterpiece.

Lean on Pete review by Awais Irfan, March 2018.

Lean on Pete will be released on 4th May 2018.

Lean on Pete