Published Feb 01, 2021Quiet, breathy, golden-hour dramas about sports are, at this point, the best way to talk about sports. And while Chloé Zhao's The Rider remains the pre-eminent document of rodeo horse riders, Clint Bentley has thrown his cowboy hat into the ring to represent jockeys with Jockey.
The film stars Clifton Collins Jr., who further cements himself as a perpetually underrated performer with a wide range as Jackson. The aging jockey and his stable sponsor, Ruth (Molly Parker), are attempting to gear up for a big season thanks to a newly acquired horse. But Jackson's decades-old injuries are coming back to haunt him, as are his old responsibilities, when a young man named Gabriel (Moises Arias) emerges in his life hoping for guidance.
To be clear, despite its more specific focus, Jockey is exactly the film you think it is: mumbling, gritty performances from all of its actors, a moody overarching score, a rider who refuses to heed his doctor's warnings about how his best days are behind him, a long-lost son that emerges out of nowhere. Ramping up the generic feel of it all is the fact that its admittedly beautiful cinematography appears to perpetually capture all of the film's characters during the golden hour, meaning half of the film is hued with deliciously warm sunlight. "I love this time of day," one of the characters says at one point. That's probably because in this world, it's always that time of day.
There are one or two unexpected twists, but Jockey is about as generic as they come, combining moments of The Wrestler and Friday Night Lights to make the most of its limitations (the leads are only shot riding horses while bouncing up and down in closely cropped frames, presumably because they don't actually know how to race horses competitively).
Strangely, Jockey's genericness works in its favour. Even as familiar beats emerge and reemerge throughout its runtime, there's something soothing about watching yet another sports flick that will ultimately work out okay in the end. (Sony Pictures Classic)