I feel that this is a story worth seeing without too much pretext, as it weaves a wonderful tale from an oblivious point of view. Charley and Pete's travels pit them against all kinds of adversities, including a merciless horse trainer, starvation and dubious strangers, and along the way we are treated to a powerhouse performance by Charlie Plummer (All The Money In The World).
Director Andrew Haigh (45 Years) has crafted a powerful cinematic odyssey, which prides itself on being modest and unsuspecting. With no frills and a low budget he lets the humanity speak for itself by way of a phenomenal screenplay – adapted from a novel by Willy Vlautin – and an ensemble of exceptional performances. Plummer occupies the entire 121-minutes of screen time delivering a stellar turn as the boy whose determination and resilience defy all odds. His humble and earnest performance is richly textured and reveals a kaleidoscope temperaments and strengths. His ability to guide his character from boyhood to manhood while never letting go of the child is a thing to behold and it would be outrageous should he be overlooked for an Oscar nomination.
His supporting cast includes Steve Buscemi as the corrupt horse trainer who takes Charley under his wing, Chloe Sevigny as the jokey whose intentions are ambiguous and Steve Zahn as an alcoholic vagrant. They are all so great, giving the calibre of performances that are equally deserving of accolades. Other players include Travis Fimmel, Alison Elliot and Lewis Pullman (son of Bill).
As I sat in the darkened cinema watching Charley's story unfold, I was overwhelmed by its emotional power. Coming-of-age films are often sentimental and heart-wrenching – to be sure – but few are as unflinching, confronting and raw as this. The narrative arch does subscribe to the familiar episodic structure of road movies, and characters come and go as expected... but how they inform the story and the nature of their intentions is surprisingly relentless. I will say no more, only that this film deserves your attention... preferably on the big screen. And final act? So beautiful... so so moving. Ok ok... enough already, I know. Just see it.