Lean on Pete Screen 7 articles

Lean on Pete


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  • Plummer’s performance is remarkably interior, bottled up behind his brimming wide eyes, and Haigh leaves enough space for the emotional weight of all that Charley is forced to process. . . . There’s something of the spirit of The 400 Blows that constrains Charley during his morning runs, the camera tracking alongside him as he moves in place—here, though, there’s no fleeting liberation in motion, just the dream of eventually coming to rest.

  • It has an urgency for epic things to happen to Charley in the most literal sense; his interiority is always reflected by the vastness, and barrenness, of the landscape traversed. But it's in Plummer's androgynous face..., and in his perennially unkempt blond mane and his breathing, that the real drama is found. Plummer's performance makes the film's narrative feel focus-grouped to death and exposes Haigh's ultimately cartoonish portrait of rural America.

  • The film that surprised me the most, with its harsh, matter-of-fact glimpses of mortality was Lean on Pete, the fourth feature by consistently surprising British director Andrew Haigh... Despite the potentially cloying nature of the material, he has ended up with a film almost entirely without easy pathos.

  • Haigh adapts Will Vlautin’s cautionary, melancholic neo-Western with a keen eye and ear for regional vernacular... Haigh leans heavily on Charley’s innocence, best expressed through centring him in the frame and letting his body speak, the factors of poverty and abandonment as much as the elemental environment bearing upon him. But as in the like-minded American depression films of fellow Brit Andrea Arnold, this potentially visceral approach is subordinated by the advancement of narrative.

  • And then, a moment of blissful catharsis, as we observe our hero’s literal first steps on the road to recovery. The choice of accompanying song – a cover of R. Kelly’s The World’s Greatest by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (aka Will Oldham) – is inspired. Stripping away the original’s bells and whistles, Oldham transforms a saccharine pop tune into a soaring folk ballad. So it is that Haigh has rearranged the building blocks of mawkish teen melodrama into a bracing and bittersweet coming-of-age fable.

  • This sparse, evocative portrait of lives of quiet desperation juxtaposed against the endless possibility of America’s wide open mid-western vistas is a striking change of approach after the deft intimacy of Weekend and 45 Years. There’s a wistful quality to the storytelling which softens some of the sharper edges of tragedy and hardship in this undeniably affecting picture.

  • The low-key, muted but scrupulously honest “Lean on Pete” comes to the slightly brokenhearted conclusion that to grow up is to find that there are things you can’t fix and can’t undo — you cannot un-hit a man, un-leave a child or un-steal a racehorse — and that the best you can hope for from anyone, as Bill Withers might croon, is that you get to lean on them a moment.

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