The character actor gets a rare chance to take center stage as a horse racer on his last legs, riding this modest character study for all its worth
Some actors you just take for granted. You see them constantly popping up, beautifully supporting the above-the-marquee names, nailing a killer line here, stealthily stealing a scene or two there. Audiences turn in to the real-life equivalent of the DiCaprio-in-Once-Upon-a-Time-in-Hollywood meme whenever these performers show up. These familiar faces become part of the firmament.
The years of riding those beasts has taken its toll on him, however, and his body ain’t what it used to be. Silva knows his time on the track is coming to an end, whether he wants it to or not. He’s just hoping that he can be the one to bring the new thoroughbred — “like a swan with teeth” is how he describes this magnificent creature to its trainer, Ruth (Molly Parker) — across the finish line first. There’s also the matter of Gabriel (Monos‘ Moises Arias), a promising new jockey who claims to be Silva’s long-lost son.
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An battered athlete past his peak, a peek into a sports subculture, a life reckoning dotted with father issues and regrets, a risk-it-all chance for one last grab at the brass ring: if this sounds to you like The Wrestler with horses, you’re not that far off. Director and cowriter Clint Bentley’s dad was a professional jockey, and there are little details and small-talk chatter among Silva’s equally been-through-the-ringer peers scattered throughout that lend this character study a frayed sense of authenticity.
Speaking of screen greats: Parker is one of those journeymen players that make films and TV shows 33% better by her presence alone, and Arias does the kind of solid, less-is-more work here that suggests he belongs in a character-actor canon right next to costars.