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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Brutally unsentimental yet traumatically beautiful: it's Lean On Pete, the movie

'Our' Lean On Pete (Tom Eaves, centre) at Southwell - his regular stamping ground lately
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If you are an aficionado of class 6 middle-distance handicaps you might be wondering why a feature film has been made about Ollie Pears' 65-rated nine-year-old Lean On Pete. After all, while he's a lovable winner of ten races, he does lack a bit of star quality.

Well it's not that Lean On Pete.

The Lean On Pete of Andrew Haigh's film, which stars Steve Buscemi and teenager Charlie Plummer and went on general release last weekend, is another racehorse – the fictitious one after whom 'our' one was named by his original owner Charles Wentworth.

Lean On Pete was a creation of Willy Vlautin – band leader of Richmond Fontaine and The Delines and a long-time racing nut, as early album Post To Wire indicates – in his novel of the same name.

Now an acclaimed writer – Vlautin has been described as a Mark Twain for the 21st century – his Lean On Pete is a quarter horse, and by the time we meet him he's on his last legs. Literally.

Lean On Pete is a mere tool for trainer Buscemi's drug and buzzer assisted gambles at fairs and down-at-heel racecourses when Charlie, the neglected son of a drifter, living a hopeless hand-to-mouth existence in America's margins, stumbles upon Oregon's Portland Meadows racecourse while out running and finds a kindred spirit.

Lean On Pete is just about paying his way, but time is running out. and Buscemi is talking about a trip to Mexico. Charlie knows what that means.

A coming-of-age film, also starring Chloe Sevigny as a jockey, Lean On Pete is as much about the boy as the horse. It is brutally unsentimental at times and the reviewer who described it as "traumatically beautiful" and "moving and haunting" was spot on. It is.

Disney it's not, but it's well worth seeing. 

Lean On Pete is a quarter horse, and by the time we meet him he's on his last legs. Literally
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