From Moonlight to Lady Bird, The Florida Project, A Ghost Story and more, A24 are at the top of their game. And now they’ve given us Lean on Pete, which screened at this year's Glasgow Film Festival - and the verdict is in.


A racehorse running out of game, Lean on Pete’s days as a champion look slim. For Del (Steve Buscemi), a horse that can’t win is a lost cause. But when the young, naïve Charlie (Charlie Plummer) comes along to assist Del with his horses, he develops a bond with our eponymous animal, cutting him loose and heading across the country with Pete on a personal journey. And, similarly to director Andrew Haigh’s last film 45 Years, Lean on Pete is a film that puts its characters through the wringer – for a story supposedly about a horse, it’s a very human film about very human pain and experience. And it's rich, nuanced and spectacular.

But, that’s just the thing: Lean on Pete isn’t really about a horse. It’s about Charlie: a kind-hearted boy that has sadly been dealt one crap hand in life. But when he finds solace and friendship in Pete, the pair head on a journey that is utterly heartbreaking and entrancing to watch. Haigh’s screenplay carves its myriad of characters out with such a palpable, authentic edge; it’s a film that is seemingly quite simple on the surface, it’s rather uneventful in its storytelling and quite purposefully paced. But it’s so superbly realised that you can’t help but soak it all in – enthralled by the detail and meticulous craft that Andrew Haigh displays in every frame.
He revels in the poetic nature of the open-American landscapes, creating a subliminal piece that is quietly meditative and riveting. We care for Pete; there’s naivety and charm to him, he’s likeable and easy to root for and empathise with. The film takes him on a roller-coaster journey throughout - to some exuberant heights and dark lows - but it all feels seamless and effortless in the progression of the character and the story. Lean on Pete is deeply stirring as a result; it’s a film of encounters and dialogue exchanges but they all feel so rich and powerful and Haigh’s astute writing means that the film packs quite the emotional punch – starting off as an optimistic and offbeat affair, full of ineffable charm, but becoming a very poignant and heart-wrenching drama by the end. It’s a testament to Haigh’s masterful storytelling, going from very quirky and hilarious scenes to tear-jerkingly moving the next and having the transition never feel jarring or even very obvious.

The performances are exceptional; Plummer, following some great work in All the Money in the World earlier this year, is a revelation. It’s a very subtle performance, but one that gets the balance of emotion and charm just right – he is the heart of the story and he really carries this film with such ease. Travis Fimmel, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn and Steve Buscemi all make up a stellar supporting cast too, each bringing their own punch and importance to the overall narrative – the latter, especially, is a scene-stealer as Del. But it’s Haigh that is the star; he has crafted a patient yet compelling character-piece that is sweeping and gorgeous. It’s a film that will envelop you into its world and refuse to let you go for 2 hours; poignant, charming and heartfelt. Lean on Pete is a masterclass in character and story - a film that will stir your deepest emotions and leave you in awe. It's a masterpiece.


Andrew Haigh has triumphed again; Lean on Pete is a masterpiece - sweeping and powerful storytelling at its finest, absorbing us into its world and taking us on quite the journey.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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