Charley (a remarkable Charlie Plummer — All the Money in the World), a teenager with a troubled single father, finds direction and acceptance when given the chance by a gruff horse trainer (a great Steve Buscemi) and a jockey (Chloe Sevigny) to care for an aging quarter horse named Lean On Pete. Although warned not to get too attached to the animal, Pete fills a void in the young man’s life.

Lean on Pete movie review

But when Charley learns that the old nag is bound for the slaughterhouse, he and Pete head off into the new American west in search of a caring aunt and a home. This may sound like a sentimental boy-and-his-horse flick, but as it takes ever-darker turns, you realize it is anything but. Writer-director Andrew Haigh’s (Weekend, 45 Years) film is an unflinchingly honest, acutely observed, life affirming emotional gut punch that will frustrate your expectations at every turn. Not for children. (121 min)