Thoroughbreds review — Thoughtful teen thriller explores empathy and murder

Written and Directed by Cory Finley | 92 min

Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) is an unhappy teen from a very wealthy Connecticut family. She’s been kicked out of her private school for plagiarism, but otherwise seems your average overachiever with an out-of- touch mother and asshole stepfather (Paul Sparks).  Her pal Amanda (Olivia Cooke) is numb—she doesn’t feel much of anything. Amanda is the one who suggests maybe Lily needs to kill her stepfather, to get him out of her life. Lily’s not on board at first, but then starts to entertain the idea. Enter Tim (Anton Yelchin, who is deeply missed), a 20-something drug dealer with big dreams. He may be available for dirty deeds done for $100 grand.

Finley is a playwright-turned-filmmaker, and his acuity with conversation brings a lot to his first feature, as well as a terrific sense of pace, camera movement, and especially score and sound design—an unusual assemblage of atonal sound, percussive pops and clicks, with some excellent use of Tanya Tagaq. This isn’t your average melodramatic teen drama, this is scalpel-sharp dark comedy, taking two characters on the opposite ends of a recognizable emotional spectrum and sending them toward one another, to a place where they almost collide, until revealing they are heading in other, unexpected directions.

What sticks like glue here here are the performances. Olivia Cooke has impressed me in things like The Signal, The Limehouse Golem, and especially Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. Stardom surely awaits, though that may depend somewhat on the quality of Ready Player One. I think it might come even sooner for Anya Taylor-Joy, whose magnetism and astonishing technical control are something to see, as they were in The Witch, Morgan, and Split. Whenever it’s finally released, the X-Men spinoff, The New Mutants, is bound to give her a higher profile.

In the meantime, witness Thoroughbreds, a thoughtful teen thriller about empathy and murder. Since the modern classic that is Heathers, how many of those have you seen?

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.