Director: Cory Finley
Writer: Cory Finley
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Paul Sparks, Anton Yelchin
A growing bond between two girls takes a dark turn in 2017's Thoroughbreds, a stunning directorial debut from Cory Finley, who also wrote this charming but chilling dark comedy.
This film is deftly carried by its two superb lead performances from Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy, both of whom are no stranger to the horror/thriller genre. Cooke in particular delivers an expertly controlled performance as the budding psychopath Amanda, her deadpan delivery of her dialogue being simultaneously unsettling and likeable. Taylor-Joy is also fantastic as the spoilt but frustrated Lily, whose sheltered naivety is at odds with the more world-weary Amanda, but who is quick to learn. The bond between the two of them is also built in a flawlessly organic way, helped in this by a simple but effective script which is interesting and engaging throughout.
We are also treated to one of the final performances from the late Anton Yelchin, whose seedy but piteous Tim provides a contrast to the otherwise middle-class setting, while Sparks provides a straightforward performance as Lily's stringent step-father.
Similarly brilliant is the film's score, courtesy of Erik Friedlander. Interestingly, music is mostly absent from the film, the audio in many scenes being confined to the conversations between the two leads. However, this only serves to highlight the impact of the erratic and desperately unsettling score when it does appear, composed of fitful strings and unpredictable drumbeats which disperse as quickly as they arrive.
Thoroughbreds is still and calm throughout, mimicking the dark tranquility of Cooke's character. Always in control, the film slowly and steadily builds while maintain a steady heart-rate throughout, devoid of any rapid camera movements, instead relying on long, slow takes. It remains purposefully restrained even during its tremendous conclusion, with the film's collected expression being dissonant with what is happening on screen. Few films feel so perfectly poised, with not a single break in the subtle but ever-present tension in it's short 90 minute runtime.
In one line: Thoroughbreds tells a dark and tense tale without even breaking a sweat, led by some wonderfully controlled performances from two fantastic young actresses.