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Critic's Choice: Andrew Haigh's 'Lean on Pete' is a piercingly sad coming-of-age tale

Critic's Choice: Andrew Haigh's 'Lean on Pete' is a piercingly sad coming-of-age tale
Charlie Plummer in the movie "Lean on Pete." (Scott Patrick Green/A24)

With his earlier films “Weekend” (2011) and “45 Years” (2015), the British writer-director Andrew Haigh established himself as a storyteller of rare and unerring emotional honesty. The beautifully observed coming-of-age drama “Lean on Pete” (now available on DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video and iTunes) finds him moving into a rural American setting with no loss of dramatic impact.

Adapted from a novel by Willy Vlautin, “Lean on Pete” tells a crushingly sad story of poverty and despair, centered on a teenage boy named Charley (Charlie Plummer), the racehorse he falls in love with and the long road they wind up taking toward an uncertain future. The perils that befall them along the way are at times almost too much to bear, but the cruelty of this journey is checked at every step by the bracing force of Haigh’s compassion.

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