March 12, 2018

CINEMA | 'Thoroughbreds' Has A Killer Pedigree

"Empathy isn't your strong suit."

Playwright turned first-time filmmaker Cory Finley impresses with a Hitchcock tinged comic thriller (think Strangers on a Train meets Heathers) centred on two troubled, sociopathic teenage girls in affluent settings. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke as Lily and Amanda, a pair of mismatched privileged Connecticut teens with an unusual, toxic friendship, Thoroughbreds is a coldly precise yet audacious film of detached emotions.

Lily hides her dissatisfaction and repressed feelings while Amanda confesses her lack of emotion, feeling nothing. Empathy is neither's strong suits as they struggle to navigate their own feelings (or lack thereof) against their parents and others. Finley quickly establishes their restricted world of empty excess and superficial relationships as they focus on their antagonists.

In opposition to the duo, Paul Sparks as Lily's emotionally abusive stepfather is perfectly hateable while still being able to advocate his very masculine point of view clearly. Alternatively, Anton Yelchin, in sadly his final performance, provides some welcome contrast and colour, bringing so much raw charisma, as a low-life drug dealer who serves as a secondary foil and accomplice to the girls' actions.


Using horse, chess, and other upper-class imagery rather bluntly, the film paints such a clear vision of young women in opposition to the world and male subjectivity around them. Finley's very specific portrait of these teen girls is so fascinatingly compelling and dynamic despite so much distance in execution.

Somewhat emotionally chilly, Finley carefully builds the perfect debut film largely set in one (gorgeous) location with only a handful of characters. The long takes, careful camera movements, and prolonged moments of emptiness frame the sociopathic story perfectly.

Thoroughbreds coldly but splendidly constructs a cinematic play of character interactions in clever ways. Taylor-Joy and Cooke are perfectly cast as non-objectified mechanisms of murderous violence and simmering anger. It's both a chilly, detached film that's somehow fiendishly full of savage commentary.

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