Thoroughbreds review: Cory Finley directs Olivia Cooke, Anya-Taylor Joy and Anton Yelchin in this delightful, very atmospheric, indelible film.
Thoroughbreds review by Awais Irfan.
There’s a lot of comparisons to American Psycho and Heathers being made with director Cory Finley’ stark feature debut. But, frankly, it’s the best broad-stroke encapsulation of what this film is: if those two cult classics had a demented baby, it would look something like Thoroughbreds.
When the proper and privileged Lily (Anya-Taylor Joy) – a step-daughter of wealth and the bourgeoise – meets the sociopathic, emotionally vacant Anna (Olivia Cooke) – who euthanises horses in her free-time – the pair quickly hit it off like PB & J; however, when Lily’s step-father Mark (Paul Sparks) wants to send her off to a boarding school for the troubled, the girls begin plotting his demise – and softcore criminal Tim (Anton Yelchin) is brought into the mix to assist the murder.
The film is quick to establish its tone, opening with Anna’s horse meeting its brutal end. From there, Thoroughbreds doesn’t exactly lighten its mood – a constant downward spiral into the rabbit hole, only getting darker and more twisted as it goes on. So it’s safe to say that this isn’t a film everyone will find to their liking. However, for those that like deliciously dark, razor-edged comedies blended with tension so sharp it could slice through wood, Thoroughbreds is for you. At its heart, this is a story about friendship – albeit a messed up one, but a friendship nonetheless. And the dynamic between Lily and Anna is electric and compelling; at the end of the day, these two girls – despite appearing radically opposite on the exterior – are more similar than first meets the eye. Finley somehow finds relatability to their sociopathic nature – it’s a testament to his craft to be able to keep us so invested in a friendship that is so far removed from normality and society.
The writing is fizzing with brilliance; it’s such a sharp screenplay, one that would give even the likes of Taylor Sheridan’s dark thrillers a run for their money. The exchanges between the girls are fast and furious and full of such comedic ingenuity. Thoroughbreds is undeniably hysterical – we’re still early into 2018 but this is already in serious contention for funniest film of the year – yet the humour is smart and so quick that it will lose the lazy ear, but will reward the sharp amongst its audience. The performances are excellent too; Taylor-Joy and Cooke make for such a superb pairing – their chemistry is rich and their back-and-forth is riveting – yet they bring so much individually to their respective roles. The screenplay does a great job at realising these two leads and their friendship but it perhaps falls flat in building a very realistic and interesting myriad of characters around them; there’s not much to the plot other than these two girls wanting to kill one of their step-fathers so it can feel thin in this regard – there’s not much when scratching beneath the surface.
However, Thoroughbreds remains a fantastic film nonetheless. It is hilarious. It is deliciously dark. Finley’s orchestration of tension is masterful, as he creates such a claustrophobic atmosphere that has the slow-suffocating effect of a snake slowly coiling around its prey. It’s a gorgeously directed film; the cinematography, despite utilising a bleak and dark colour palette, is fitting for the film’s tone and looks great. The late Anton Yelchin is also terrific in his small but scene-stealing role as Tim – he’s utterly hysterical and it only hurts so much more that we lost such a talent so young. Cory Finley has done an exceptional job in creating a very atmospheric and indelible film here; Thoroughbreds is darkly triumphant, a hysterical and striking debut anchored by two powerhouse performances in Anya-Taylor Joy and Olivia Cooke. What a delight.
Thoroughbreds review by Awais Irfan, March 2018.
Thoroughbreds will be released on 6th April 2018.