Lean On Pete (on at Edinburgh Filmhouse)
Patriarchy and capitalism both take a beating in Lean On Pete. It's a film about a youthful 15-year-old boy, Charlie (an award-winning performance by Charley Plummer) who rescues a condemned horse and takes it with him on a personal quest across wastelands and highways to find his surrogate mother, following the death of his broke but well-meaning father. Charlie knows only poverty – this is male privilege in the most heartbreakingly barely-perceptible sense of the word – and has learned to get by with minimal expression. His pastime is to jog in single-minded solitude along highways and dirt roads; his treat is to lose himself watching TV in the evening in his father's shack-like home.
Patriarchy, though, recurs in violent penetrations. At one stop, while he's given a roof by some ex-military guys in sparse shrub-land, he briefly meets a likeable girl who's bullied by her grandfather over her obesity. She serves her grandfather like a long-suffering maid, absorbing his verbal abuse; at one point while they wash dishes together Charlie asks her why she puts up with it, and she responds that she has little choice, where else can she go? You wonder if Charlie will take her with her. Yet soon after, their paths diverge, hers to a life of abusive God knows what.
While Charlie keeps moving, sometimes descending into crime to get by. At times I was reminded of Cormac McCarthy's novel All the Pretty Horses, though the coming-of-age theme of a young man and his horse is limited here to the cinematic two-hour arc of background-road-trip-endpoint.I loved the ending, was caught in the emotion, it's the kind of ending I'd like to see again, and the kind of film everyone should watch with its glistening humanity among so much harshness and material squalor, and the fleeting shimmer too of second-thoughts about those whose journeys don't end with uplifting, love-sweeping drama.