A transitory game of chess within Thoroughbreds (2017): featuring a modern suburban slasher!
No Guts, No Glory
Thoroughbreds (2017) is a film directed by Cory Finley about two wealthy suburban ex-friends who have since fallen apart throughout the years they spent in high school. Here, Anya Taylor-Joy plays a by-the-books girl named Lily who lives with her mother and her filthy rich step-dad Mark. As with most instances of step-parentry, it seems our dear Lily has a bone to pick with the newest addition to their family. Mark can be described, if spoken truthfully, as a prestigious and pompous power-hogging pig. In laymen’s terms: Mark’s an asshole. A real big asshole. The “abusive to my mom but he gets away with it because he’s got money and supports us financially” kind of asshole. There’s no way to get around it; Lily just has to learn to tolerate him. That is, at least, until her old gal pal Amanda, played by Olivia Cooke, crawls back into her life and suggests an alternative. At first, Lily wants nothing more from Amanda than some extra cash for tutoring her for the SAT. But after opening up to one another over a bottle of Mark’s stolen wine, Lily discovers her childhood friend may have more uses than just that simple monetary gain. After all, what’s a little cash compared to justice by your own hand?
There’s nothing wrong with being a little unstable.
This film’s got it all; good sound design, strong acting, intriguing and deep characters, anxiety-boosting conflict, and BBH’s (big, beautiful houses). It also includes a single (1) horse. Truthfully, the film should be called “Thoroughbred” since there’s only one horse, but I digress. I think this film is definitely worth your time. If I had to rate it, I’d give it around 4.5/5 stars. Although Thoroughbreds (2017) left me with some strange feelings afterwards, watching the personalities of Lily and Amanda develop and change throughout the films 90-minute run time was definitely worth the ride.
This next paragraph will include spoilers.
All Guts, and Some Spine Too
The rekindling of a friendship is not something done so easily when your childhood companion has recently executed a stallion. Yeah, you heard me PETA. Amanda killed her decrepit steed with her own bare hands. Of course, I am over-exaggerating a bit. You see, it wasn’t a killing out of malice, but instead was done out of mercy. Honeymooner, Amanda’s racehorse who she won many medals with in her younger years, had broken his leg and was reported to never be able to walk again. When Amanda hears of this, she sees it as a cruelty for the horse to live any longer, and discusses it with her mother to see what can be done. As Honeymooner has been a member of their family for a long time, just as long as Amanda has been alive, the mother let’s her emotions get the best of her and doesn’t allow for him to be put down by a veterinarian. This, of course, is seen by Amanda to be an illogical move from her mother, manifested from her birth-giver’s weak moral character. She then takes up the responsibility to put the horse down herself as this was, in her mind, the most logical thing to do.
While the execution involved failed euthanasia, flesh-stripping, bone-breaking, and spine-smashing, none of this seemed to bother Amanda much. You see, contrary to most sane humans, Amanda doesn’t feel emotion. She may get tired or hungry, but when it comes to joy or guilt or remorse, it just doesn’t come to her. It was easy for Amanda to kill Honeymooner, and she didn’t revel in it either. She just felt it was something that had to be done.
This unethical act unsurprisingly lands Amanda with an animal cruelty offense, but she continues her life while awaiting trial, although she feels her existence may not have much purpose. When this is all explained to Lily, she realizes that her friend is not necessarily insane but instead just exceptionally logical when it comes to solving conflicts. Amanda’s lack of pathos results in her thinking of every scenario as a math problem: whats the most effective possible outcome and how can I get there the fastest? She does not hesitate, she makes a choice and she follows it immediately.
The Master Plan
While rummaging through Mark’s wine cellar, Amanda proposes to Lily that she should just kill her step-father. In this scenario, Amanda sees Mark as the lame horse, not functioning effectively either as a father or as a good husband to Lily’s mother, and therefore feels justified in suggesting they kill him. Doubling down on her logic, Amanda states that it would benefit a large amount of people and have very low outcomes in terms of repercussions; plus, if planned correctly, they could avoid being caught altogether. Lily gets mad and kicks Amanda out of her house, disagreeing with the brash girls way of thinking and her “lame horses should be put down” ideals. As the film progresses, Lily comes around to the idea though, and proposes they talk to their local child-molesting drug-dealer and try to hire him to pull a hit on Mark. After the delinquent falls through, however, Lily returns to the house to find Mark is still alive and kicking. She decides she will have no more of this and takes manners into her own hands.
Making Your Mark
On a seemingly regular night sitting on the couch with Amanda, Lily asks her if she believes her life is worth living. Amanda is taken aback by this on accounts of her not having thought of it before. After turning it over in her head for a bit, she decides that it isn’t, and asks Lily why she asked such a question while taking a sip of her lemonade. “If you can’t feel happiness, if you don’t have a good future, is life even worth living?” It appears in this case that it is, as Amanda’s lack of goal or purpose allows her to be a signature component of Lily’s plan. Lily informed Amanda that she tried drugging her lemonade in order to knock her out, kill her stepdad with a knife, and frame it on her. Amanda is not offended however, and instead drinks all of her lemonade in order to knock herself out and help Lily continue with her plan. By taking control of the situation and catalyzing Lily’s plan, Amanda acts as a martyr in order for her friend to succeed in her goal to end Mark’s life. Lily goes through with it, framing (consenting) Amanda for the murder of her step-father and landing her in a mental hospital. Amanda again doesn’t mind this because she believes it’s the most logical thing to do. Her friend is miserable because of Mark and she herself has no life purpose, so she believes the best option is to be take the fall for it and let Lily come out victorious.
By the end of the film, it’s almost as if our two protagonists have shifted personas. Lily now walks around town like the queen she is, giving everybody cold stares and presenting very little emotion while being more stern and logical. Amanda, on the other hand, spends her jailbird days painting and crocheting with all the other locked up loonies in there. She doesn’t mind it though. She tells Lily in a letter that the staff there are very nice for the most part. She explains a recurring dream to Lily too, one where all the people in the world are rich and can’t take their heads out of the material things in the world. Time passes and everything rots away, only leaving the thoroughbred horses. They roam the planet with no worry of their value or goal in life but instead just enjoy being wild animals. In this sense, the girls are the thoroughbreds. They do what they please, they roam with no rules and they live with power in their hands. They aren’t afraid of what will be done to them, they know that if the world ever falls apart and all the filthy rich bastard rot in place, they will be there still. They’ll gallop over fields of grass and drink from clear rivers and clop over debilitated houses. In a way, they both used each other, but it was a mutual gain. Lily learned how to be cold and got rid of the person who hurt her family the most, while Amanda learned how to see beauty in the small and insignificant, and even learned how to smile without looking in a mirror. She might’ve ended up in confinement, but she doesn’t care so long as she had a reason to live for.
All in all, Thoroughbreds (2017) is definitely a film you shouldn’t miss. That is, if you can handle topics such as murder, patricide, drug use, and other not-so-innocent topics.