Sundance 2021: Jockey

Jackson Silva (Clifton Collins Jr.) is an aging jockey who wants to win one last time before his body breaks down completely. It’s against the advice of his doctor, of course, and he’s already past his prime, but he doesn’t know when to quit, or what he’d do after, so he just keeps doing the one thing he’s good at.

Gabriel (Moises Arias) is a young jockey with his whole career in front of him, and a lot of promise. He’s come to be Jackson’s protégé but also claims to be his son – a son Jackson didn’t know he had.

Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free? You don’t really have to answer that, it’s a lyric from a Bruce Springsteen song from the movie The Wrestler. The Wrestler is about an aging wrestler whose body is past its prime but he doesn’t know when to quit or what he’d do after so he just keeps doing the one thing he’s good at.

Jockey is actually a perfectly good movie. Clifton Collins Jr. is never better as a man coming to terms with his own expiration date. It’s an intimate, low-key character study with a weighty impact. But I’ve seen this movie. I’ve seen it dozens of times and probably you have too. Director Clint Bentley shows a real mastery but I just can’t forgive it for being The Wrester, with horses. If you love horses then maybe Jockey will be your The Wrester – though I believe The Wrestler is the much superior film, and the one you should watch if you’re going to watch any. And anyway, this movie isn’t called The Horse. It’s about the small people who ride atop them, most of whom didn’t go to college first to get a “fallback career” as their mothers likely counselled them. Jackson is forced to contemplate his exit, and to consider his legacy, and his life beyond. Mickey Rourke did the same in The Wrester, and found there wasn’t much for him outside the ring. Its subtle heartbreak still haunts me more than a decade later. Jockey, while well made and beautifully acted, I’m already on my way to forgetting.

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