by Michael B. Hock
It’s rare a movie stays with me the say was as Thoroughbreds. I enjoy movies that make me think and I do actively seek them out, but it’s not often that one just sits with me as I keep replaying pieces of it, trying to figure out exactly what was really going on, especially one that seems to actively be playing with audience expectations.
The plot does seem a little straightforward. It’s is about a young wealthy woman Lily Reynolds (Anya Taylor-Joy) who befriends Amanda (Olivia Cooke) who claims to have an inability to feel no emotions. Together they plot to kill Lily’s stepfather (Paul Sparks). I could go into more detail, but there’s not much else to it. Lily’s stepfather is kind of mean? Anton Yelchin is in his final role as a small time drug dealer? While this seems pretty thin, a lot of stuff happens that makes movie almost bigger than what it really seems.
There’s a lot here, I don’t even know where to start. I can’t promise I’m not going to spoil things as I start to question the reality of this movie. Maybe this is going to be less of a review, more of an essay about how I think this may be one of the more brilliant movies to come out in the past few years.
Let’s start with Mark, the stepfather. There’s many different ways they could have made him a cartoon villain or a movie of the week bad guy, but ultimately he’s mostly a controlling jerk. He’s abusive in some ways, but like so much of this movie, it’s so under the surface that when you first watch it, you may side with him a couple of times before you realize the depth of his cruelty. Much of the film is shown through Lily’s point of view, so when you discover that she was (spoilers, I guess) was expelled from school, he takes on an air of a stepfather over correcting in disciplining his daughter. Eventually it does circle back to the fact that he’s really a jerk, and there are a few parts in which Lily’s mom seems almost afraid of him, but nothing is really explicitly said.
This is a credit to how the movie is paced. This is a movie that’s very confident in the line that it’s walking and slowly reveals what the movie itself wants you to know, nothing else. It reveals information in a way that satisfies you in the moment, then a little later hits you with the revelation that it hasn’t been honest with you, or perhaps there’s something else you need to know.
While much of that credit goes to writer and director Cory Finey, a lot of the heavy lifting goes to Taylor and Cooke in their roles. Cooke plays a woman who has no emotions with interesting detail, finding ways to remind the viewer from time to time that she is simply approximating what human emotion could be. By the time we get to the end, there are some amazingly heartbreaking moments that make you wonder how honest she is with herself and with the audience. Taylor… she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses, between this and Split. Honestly, I really need to go back and watch her performance over and over. She goes from a projection of a perky perfect daughter all the way to someone planning a murder with an ease that is still sitting with me. Seriously, I keep going back to the plot of this movie being thin, I don’t mean that as an insult. I mean that as a testament to the power of the direction and these actresses, who manage to carry a lot.
I really can’t give away much more without really spoiling things so I’m just going to say: go see this movie. It’s a work of cinematic art.
Hamlet T. Wondercat says
Out of Five