lean on pete review

(This review originally ran during our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival. Lean on Pete is in theaters today.)

Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete is a social realist drama of the highest order, combining the gentle pastoral touch of David Lynch’s The Straight Story with a probing sympathy for individuals on the edge of society recalling the best of the Dardenne brothers. There’s no armchair sociology here, just rich character observation steeped in a spirit of compassion. Haigh never veers into grandstanding “issues movie” territory or troubled youth drama. It’s just the story of an adolescent boy in need of the tiniest bit of permanence and security.

That boy is 15-year-old Charley Thompson, played by Charlie Plummer, a pure but restless soul hitched to the fortunes of his good-natured single father Ray (Travis Fimmel). When the film starts, the two are just getting settled into a new home in Portland, and Charley clearly has the routine down. He unpacks his trophies, goes for a run around unfamiliar streets to acquaint himself with the area and puts his Cap’n Crunch in the refrigerator to avoid the roaches. Charley is no hopeless, despairing victim – he’s just stuck in a situation beyond his control. From a young age, he has already learned not to get sentimental and accept nothing as permanent.

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lean on pete trailer

There’s an entire subgenre of “a boy and his animal” movies out there, so you can be forgiven for taking a quick glance at the Lean on Pete trailer and writing it off. However, early buzz suggests that would be a huge mistake. Andrew Haigh‘s film hits theaters in 2018, but it made the festival rounds this year, racking up critical acclaim. /Film contributor Marshall Shaffer called it “a striking, shattering and altogether sensational journey.” This isn’t your run of the mill “boy and his horse” adventure.

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