"Touching but Harrowing Equine Journey"
What You Need To Know:
Based on an acclaimed novel, LEAN ON PETE packs a powerful emotional punch at times. The performances are first-rate, and the ending is poignant and uplifting. Ultimately, LEAN ON PETE is a story about searching for love, acceptance and family. However, the movie is too long. Also, it contains lots of strong foul language, brief disturbing violence and some harrowing moments. So, extreme caution is advised for LEAN ON PETE.
LEAN ON PETE is a well-acted drama about an orphaned teenage boy in Portland who steals an aging race horse about to be sold to the slaughterhouse and goes across the country to find his aunt, who may or may not live in Wyoming. The running time in LEAN ON PETE needs to be cut down, and the boy makes some stupid, annoying decisions that put the horse’s life and welfare at risk, but the story is ultimately compelling and touching and promotes loving kindness, despite lots of strong foul language, brief disturbing violence and an agnostic worldview.
As the movie opens, 15-year-old Charley and his father, Ray, have moved to Portland from Washington state. Charley’s mother abandoned the family years ago, and it’s been years since he’s seen his loving aunt, whose offer to raise Charley was rejected by Ray. Stung by his wife’s rejection of their family, Ray rejected her offer because he pridefully felt that he and Charley didn’t need anyone’s help.
While jogging one morning, Charley passes by the local racetrack. He takes a summer job helping a down-on-his-luck, gruff quarter horse owner named Del. Among Del’s few remaining racehorses is an aging quarter horse named “Lean on Pete.” Charley takes a liking to Pete. However, Del’s favorite jockey, a woman named Bonnie, warns Charley not to get too attached to race horses, because some day they will start losing and be sold to the slaughterhouse.
One night, the former boyfriend of the woman Charley’s father was seeing breaks into their house and stabs the father in the stomach during a fight. Now, Charley’s work at the racetrack is the only thing keeping Charley and his father from being homeless.
Sadly, Charley’s father unexpectedly dies from complications of his wounds in the hospital. Charley runs away from child protective services and starts living at the racetrack without telling anyone. When Charley finds out Del intends to sell Pete to the slaughterhouse, he steals Pete and Del’s truck and horse trailer to take Pete to Wyoming, in a desperate search for his aunt.
Based on an acclaimed novel by Willie Vlautin, LEAN ON PETE packs a powerful emotional punch at times. The performances are first-rate. However, the movie takes too long. At one point, for instance, Del’s truck runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere, and Charley and Pete have to start walking across Colorado toward Wyoming. As they walk across the barren wilderness, Charley talks to Pete about all his jumbled feelings. These scenes give viewers a lot of real insight into Charley, but they eventually just seem to go on and on. Then, when Charley does get to Wyoming civilization, there are more scenes of Charley trying to survive while he’s hunting for his aunt. That said, LEAN ON PETE has an extremely poignant ending that’s dramatically uplifting and heartrending.
Despite these positive qualities, Charley does some pretty stupid things that put the horse’s life seriously at risk. This will make sensitive viewers extremely annoyed if not disgusted at Charley, and the movie almost loses all sympathy toward it and its protagonist.
Also, LEAN ON PETE has lots of strong foul language, especially in the first half of the movie before Charley goes on the lam with Pete. The foul language resumes when Charley meets some other people on the road and some disreputable people on the streets of the Wyoming town where he ends up. There are also three disturbing scenes of violence in the movie.
Ultimately, LEAN ON PETE is a story about searching for love, acceptance and family. In searching for that, the protagonist, Charley, shows incredible resiliency and hope, despite the poor judgments he makes. However, the story takes place in a non-religious environment. There’s no reliance on God, much less on Jesus.
Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution because of this problem and also because of the unnecessary foul language.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:29 that we can find rest in Him. Also, in John 10:10, Jesus promises to give us abundant life. Furthermore, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our worries and anxieties on God, because He cares for us. Finally, Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.”
We agree with LEAN ON PETE when it tells us to seek help from our fellow men. Also, it was clearly wrong for Charley’s father to reject help from his wife’s sister, Charley’s aunt. In the Bible, there’s no shame in seeking the help of others, and pride is considered a sin. Before we seek the help of others, however, or while we seek the help of others, we should look toward God first and foremost. A really good way to do just that is not only through prayer but also through consulting Scripture, the Word of God. Of course, God can work not only in us but also in the people around us, but so can the Devil and our own sinful natures.