Friday, 9 March 2018

Thoroughbreds (2018)

Playwright Cory Finley has burst onto the cinema scene with an explosively good debut, the dark thriller Thoroughbreds. From the opening scene, Thoroughbreds punches you in the gut, but so subtly you're not sure what's going on. Finley builds a serious sense of dread, displacement, and concern while at the same time seducing you with two enticingly complex characters played by strong young actors who are showing us they are both something to be reckoned with. All this and Anton Yelchin gives a wonderful final performance in a part that would easily be forgettable if it wasn't for his own talent. Thoroughbreds is a shot over the bow from young talent saying we're here and you're going to notice.

Finley's tight screenplay is fraught with tension, rich in characterization, and filled with insight into some difficult emotions. Thoroughbreds is asking us to relate to a sociopath, no demanding we do, and is successful in that demand. It examines the experience of lack of empathy not from a place of fear or revulsion but, ironically, with empathy. And it does so with an engaging, enjoyable dark tale that doesn't take time out for filler, just follows its trajectory through one of the most satisfying arcs I've seen in a while. Stylishly filmed, yet without egregious flourishes, Thoroughbreds isn't just a successful screenplay. Finley shows an eye for great visual storytelling. He keeps it simple yet sophisticated, and downright delicious.

A big part of this is the casting. Anya Taylor-Joy is cast against type as the poor little rich girl, and succeeds as wonderfully as she has playing the more disturbed characters she has taken on before this. Olivia Cooke is also remarkable as the sociopath with a big heart. She is completely engaging and convincing and downright lovable. And finally Yelchin takes his character and makes it as memorable as possible in what is so sadly his last role. He will be missed.

Thoroughbreds jolts you in that wonderful way that seeing new talent on display makes you excited for whatever can come next.

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks
Writer/Director: Cory Finley

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