Everyone has that friend, the one who’s a bit dark and strange. The bleak nihilist who sees no meaning or emotion in anything. In his creepy debut, Cory Finley pushes these friendships to their distressing extremes. Set within an upper-class neighbourhood in Connecticut, boarding-school girl Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) is persuaded to tutor Amanda (Olivia Cooke), an unsociable girl who drifts between uncertain psychological disorders. She doesn’t feel happiness, joy or empathy, which Lily is scared and attracted to. As their friendship grows stronger, Amanda casually suggests they murder Lily’s step-father. This is initially dismissed, but the idea begins to eat away in Lily’s mind.
Finley evokes some of the greatest psychological filmmakers in cinema. Thoroughbreds is wrapped in Hitchcock, De Palma, and Paul Thomas Anderson – while preserving a character-driven story the viewer has never seen before. In true Hitchcockian fashion, the violence is kept at an absolute minimum – with the suggestion being more painful than the act itself. The possibility of murder gnaws through our minds as well as Lily’s, maintaining an enticing level of suspense throughout. Are these schoolgirls really capable of such violence?
Although the dialogue is tense and brilliant, Cooke and Taylor-Joy barely need to say anything to draw the viewer in. They connect together and jolt the audience with their unnerving performances, particularly Cooke, who depicts the absence of emotion with a bluntness that is both funny and frightening. The film also features one of the last appearances from Anton Yelchin, who brings an excellent energy to an otherwise unsympathetic character. Finley even gives him a dedication.
Thoroughbreds is an engrossing psychological thriller, with snappy writing and gloriously patient direction. Lyle Vincent’s blunt and sweeping cinematography, working together with Erik Friedlander’s antagonising score, perfectly captures the unsettled minds of Lily and Amanda – bearing many similarities to Punch-Drunk Love. And although Finley steals from the best, the style suits a contemporary narrative and the story feels fresh. A thrilling debut.
Thoroughbreds is released nationwide on 6th April 2018.
Watch the trailer for Thoroughbreds here: