Directed by Cory Finley
The slow-burner drama-thriller “Thoroughbreds”, an auspicious directorial debut for Cory Finley, creates that kind of mood that sometimes attracts and sometimes repulses.
The story finds two childhood friends who reconnect in Connecticut years after losing sight of each other. Emotionally deprived, Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) have grown into upper-class teenagers of bright intelligence but limited moral principles. Lily boasts a brilliant CV, hates her manipulative stepfather (Paul Sparks), and gets fascinated by the personality of Amanda, a self-trained deceiver who seems perfectly normal but is completely unable to feel joy, sadness or guilt. She is actually a sociopath who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, severe depression, and anti-social behavior after euthanizing her crippled horse with a knife.
The first contact between the two girls is tense due to Amanda’s perfect understanding of Lily’s inner feelings. Not bad at all for someone who is emotionless. After teaching her friend the crying technique, Amanda poses a dangerous question: ‘do you ever think about just killing him?’. The thought of killing her stepfather gains a sharper perspective when Lily is informed by her passive mother (Francie Swift) that the following year she will be attending Brookmore, a strict school for girls with severe behavioral issues.
They plan the evil act with a helper in mind: Tim (Anton Yelchin), an ambitious drug dealer whom they intend to turn into a hitman. This particular passage felt strained and was the weakest section of the film, feeling more time-consuming than worthwhile. The positive thing is that the story shifts immediately to darker, bringing a few surprises. The poisonous bondage between the calculative Lily and the stoic Amanda is about to be sealed forever with blood. But at what price?
Intersecting the friction of a taut thriller and the biting wit of a dark comedy, Cory Finley proves he has the eye and the talent. He extracts the best acting qualities from Cooke and Taylor-Joy, who totally convince with their odd rebelliousness, coldness, and amorality. Master cellist Erik Friedlander, a modern explorer of sound, was the perfect choice to develop a tense, gripping score, while cinematographer Lyle Vincent, a habitual collaborator of Ana Lily Amirpour, may not be remembered as in “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, but did a very competent job.