Two upper class teenage girls, having been friends in childhood, rekindle their friendship after growing apart for years. While Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) is popular and bookish with a sensitive soul, Amanda (Olivia Cooke) feels no emotions and appears to have some kind of mental disorder. The pair of them could not be more different and yet they totally understand one another. Amanda soon notices that Lily loathes her stepfather, Mark (Paul Sparks), and suggests that they kill him. The girls enlist a small-time drug dealer named Tim (Anton Yelchin) to carry out the deed.
Thoroughbreds marks the last film of Anton Yelchin’s to be released following his tragic death at the age of 27. While you can understand why it was released as a tribute to his incredible talent as an actor (he would be best-known as Chekhov in the new Star Trek movies but also gave great performances in Green Room and Like Crazy among other movies), it’s also clear why its release has been delayed, as the film is not exactly mainstream in nature.
Aside from Yelchin, our other young leads are Taylor-Young, who has been becoming an increasingly more recognisable name following roles in Netflix movie Barry, TV series The Miniaturist, and horror movies The Witch and Split, and Cooke, who broke out with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and can currently be seen in Ready Player One. The actresses compliment one another well and give equally compelling performances.
For all its good intention and terrific acting from the three young leads though, Thoroughbreds is dragged down by a plot that either doesn’t want or doesn’t know how to drive the action forward. What begins as enthralling, beguiling, and mysterious becomes plodding and humdrum. It’s one of those films where if you’ve seen the trailer (as this reviewer had), you’ve seen all the interesting bits and there are no surprises left. Moreover, the trailer is frustratingly misleading, making the film look like it has more thrills and action than it really does.
Tonally, Thoroughbreds is surreal and strange with an arthouse style that has an off-putting effect. It seems to be trying to comment on the youth of today but goes about it in too obscure a way to leave a meaningful impact on the audience. On a positive note, the cinematography is gorgeous (the man behind the camera, Lyle Vincent, was also cinematographer for the genius vampire flick A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) and for a first film, as it is for writer-director Cory Finley, it's passable.