Charley (Charlie Plummer), the vulnerable teenage protagonist of Lean On Pete, is always on the move. We first see him jogging at dawn, past suburban streets and out towards to the local racecourse. The morning light is benevolent; the camera keeps a smooth distance: all is promise and potential in Charley’s life, or should be. But his home is threadbare and his relations are meagre. In lieu of furniture is a chaotic pile of moving boxes. In place of parental love is a wary, brittle alliance between Charley and his single father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), an immature philanderer who treats his son more like a younger brother. ‘Don’t wait up,’ Ray tells Charley, leaving him at night with not much more than a plate of beans for company and sustenance. We never learn exactly why Ray and Charley have fetched up on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, but the rapidity with which Ray incurs the anger of various cuckolded local husbands is a good clue.
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