In the month of April, I was given two touching films about boys and their horses. “The Rider” is about an ex-rodeo star, struggling to overcome a near-fatal head injury, while losing his hopes and dreams. No movie stars were used, but it still explodes. And now, I’m given “Lean on Pete,” a fish-out-of-water story about a poor boy and a tired horse traveling from Oregon to Wyoming. It’s a road trip movie with serious challenges.
Charlie Plummer (“All the Money in the World”) stars as Charley, a poor kid, who lands a job helping a horse trainer named Del (Steve Buscemi) get his horses (literally) on track. His friend and rider Bonnie (Chloe Sevigny) warns the kid not to get attached to their main horse Pete, because they’re meant to be riders.
Charley knows Pete has been pushed too hard to win, and becomes weary. That’s why Del plans to sell him in Mexico. He knows Pete will die there so, he takes him a little road trip to find his long lost Aunt Margy (Allison Elliott) in Wyoming.
Charley talks to Pete about his problems. His story involves his father’s (Travis Fimmel) sudden death, how his mother left him as a baby, and how an argument between his father and aunt made it impossible for him to keep in touch with her.
Written and directed by Andrew Heigh, “Lean on Pete” doesn’t just focus on the boy’s friendship with the horse; it focuses on his troubles, which now leaves him an orphan. How he struggles to get to Wyoming includes stealing food, getting attacked by a drunk bum (Steve Zahn), and getting some odd jobs to earn some money. Plummer is perfect in this role, and I see a future in this kid.
You also have some fresh supporting work from Sevigny, Elliott, Fimmel, Zahn, and Buscemi, as well as a beautiful art direction. We see the beautiful landscapes, like grasslands and river, and both night and day keeps things sedated.
Some scenes may be hard to watch, and I won’t give out spoilers, but you know you’re in for an emotional film, when you see the kid in tears. Again, two fantastic horse movies in one month.