- Film & TV
- 12 Sep 19
Matthias Schoenaerts is remarkable in soulful drama.
One of my cinematic pet-peeves is directors' unshakeable belief that close-ups of a horse's eye are innately meaningful. Actors like Amy Adams, Cillian Murphy and Michelle Williams all have incredibly expressive eyes. But a confused quadruped is just a confused quadruped.
In her directorial debut, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre falls into the trap of the close-up, but thankfully spends much more time focusing on the intense emotional performance of the ever-superb Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone, Suite Francaise). Schoenaerts plays Roman, a criminal who is being re-integrated into the general prison population after a lengthy stretch in solitary. Roman is stoic to the point of sociopathic, taking agonisingly long, dead-eyed pauses before answering questions.
When he's ordered to train a horse so it can be sold at an upcoming auction - a real programme that serves to protect some of the 100,000 wild mustangs roaming the States - Clermont-Tonnerre upends any expectations of a Hallmark meet-cute between man and beast. Roman flies into a vicious rage when he's unable to immediately control the animal, pummelling the horse in an act of shocking cruelty - receiving some brutal kicks in return. These are two beings defined by their ferocity, fragility and loneliness, and whether this will be a connection or battle is unclear.
The script by by Mona Fastvold, Brock Norman Brock, and Clermont-Tonnerre is slight, but its bare bones portrayal of connection feels impressively alive.
Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Gideon Adlon, Bruce Dern, Connie Britton.
97 mins. In cinemas now. 4/5