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Lean on Pete might rely on familiar dramatic tropes, but that doesn't prevent the film from packing an emotional wallop.

Anchored by the break-out performance of Charlie Plummer, recalling the wise-beyond-his-years vulnerability and charm of the late River Phoenix, Lean on Pete takes you on a touching road trip through the American heartland, as the lead character seeks solace in his friendship with the titular horse to cope with a tragic loss in his life.

Writer-director Andrew Haigh finds the right balance between naturalistic, astute observations and a propulsive narrative, while coaxing fine performances across the board out of his eclectic cast.

At times he does overstate the obvious - most notably when he uses conversations between Plummer and his horse as a convenient exposition dump in the second half of the film, which doesn't completely deliver on the promise of the first hour - but overall Lean on Pete is a nuanced portrait of a teenager trying to find a purpose in life that will have your rooting for the protagonist from start to finish.

release: 2017

director: Andrew Haigh

starring: Charlie Plummer, Amy Seimetz, Travis Fimmel, Steve Buscemi


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