Thoroughbreds film review: Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy make for a toxic duo in this psychological thriller

Melissa York
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Anya Taylor-Joy gets tampering as Lilly

This psychological thriller begins with a knife and a startled horse, conjuring flashbacks of the two biggest horse murdering films of all time, The Godfather and Equus.

This is fitting because Thoroughbreds sits somewhere in the gaping chasm between the two. On the one hand, it’s a coming of age tale, with Lily, a recently expelled teenager, having her moral boundaries pushed by Amanda, a childhood friend who is also off school awaiting trial for the aforementioned animal cruelty.

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On the other hand, it’s a family revenge drama, but of the fairly pedestrian variety: Lily seeks vengeance on her abusive, trophy-hunting stepfather who keeps threatening to send her to a correctional facility.

“Have you ever considered killing him?” Amanda deadpans. “I mean, have you even considered it?” And with that, the two of them are plotting murder, a psychotic young woman pushing an emotionally neglected one to kill.

Written and directed by Corey Finlay, it’s a striking debut that borrows liberally from the greats. The violence and chapter titles are pure Tarantino, its clipped wit is Pinter-esque, and the visuals are Sofia Coppola at her most dreamlike. Set in an affluent part of Connecticut, the sets are plastered in marble, its dangerous duo reared in boarding schools and barely aware they’re dripping in filthy lucre as they flippantly proclaim they “plan to just Steve Jobs my way through life.”

It comes tantalisingly close to saying something interesting about class or the corrupting nature of extreme wealth, but this fascinating sub-plot gets pushed aside too soon by the less interesting murder narrative. At its centre is a toxic relationship, played magnetically by Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke, which makes for a gripping, if slightly muddled film. Though it straddles many cinematic styles, Thoroughbreds quite never seems to settle in for the ride.

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