Andrea’s Angle | “Jockey” – Thoughtful Character Story
One of the reasons I really wanted to review Jockey is because it was filmed right here in Phoenix at our very own Turf Paradise. While we don’t get a lot of attention out here for horse racing, it is a beautiful place with a lot of history and it was wonderful to see it utilized for this film. I also knew that it had a stellar cast with a lot of experience acting and who could do justice to the right story. This was the right story. It is quiet, thoughtful, and a study of what it means to be an aging jockey in the sport of horse racing. The performances highlight the story and the film is incredibly authentic.
Jockey is a drama written by Greg Kwedar and Clint Bentley who is also the director. The film stars Clifton Collins Jr. as an aging jockey as Jackson Silva. Jackson is an experienced rider who has endured decades racing on the equestrian circuit and now finds himself facing his last season due to deteriorating health. With the help of Ruth (Molly Parker), his trainer, and her new horse, Jackson begins to prepare for the upcoming championship only to be thrown by the appearance of a young man, Gabriel (Moisés Arias), who claims to be his son. Jackson must balance the relationship with Gabriel and his desire to race against the demands of his health.
There are many elements that help this quiet film shine. While it is slower-paced, it presents a beautiful heartfelt authentic story driven by the characters. The plot revolves around Jackson and the truth of the toll that racing takes on riders. One scene, in particular, resonates where Jackson is sitting down with a group of riders who talk about all the pain and damage they’ve taken over the years. It was a poignant scene and reflects the care the writers took to present the plot. The choice to film at Turf Paradise with a mix of riding pros and actors was a brilliant choice as it allows us to see an accurate vision of racing and real riders. And all along the way, Jackson is shown with the same damage and experiences that we see in real riders. This allows the film to resonate stronger with audiences, because of the truthfulness of what it presents.
Another aspect that makes me respect the director for his choices is the lighting and sound. Let’s start with sound. This is a director not afraid to allow silence to speak for the film. During the races that we see, quite often they are accompanied either by silence or just the sounds of the horses’ hooves pounding on the track. More often it is silent and it allows you to focus on the riders and their motions in the saddle. The lighting also helps you focus on the riders. Quite a few scenes are shot at sunset in the natural light of the area. (As an Arizona native, I can tell you the sunsets are really that beautiful). The director allows the natural beauty of the area to help us focus on the story and the performances.
The performances are emotional and fantastic. Clifton Collins Jr. is excellent with skill work that is sheer perfection. He embraces his role one hundred percent and his previous experience with horses shows in every movement in the film. He embodies the very essence of a rider, a cowboy. His quietly heartfelt performance is the highlight of the movie. His chemistry with Molly Parker is rich and strong. There is an unspoken emotion between the two even as the character of Ruth conflicts with Jackson over his health. Molly Parker emotes such joy and beauty in her performance, a realism as she shows how much her character loves horses and cares about winning with the horse she has bought. Just as rich is the bond between Jackson and Gabriel played by Moisés Arias. Moisés also is authentic as a rider but also plays his role well, both he and Clifton Collins Jr. showing such deep emotion in their bond. Moisés has an amazing performance despite his youth and all three are stellar.
The only flaw would be the slower quality of the film. And while the story is interesting, it is not very new or different. But what makes it so good, is the focus it has, a beautiful and honest look at racing and the toll it takes on its riders. It shows all this from the character’s point of view and never deviates from that goal. The realism and the wonderful performances ensure that it is a rich and engaging story.
If you like heartwarming and poignant character films, this film would be a great one to watch. It is especially great if you love riding and horses because it shows some of the truths behind the world of equestrian riding. Even more so, I believe Phoenix residents should watch it, given that it is filmed right here in our city. But whether you are from here or not, I believe you will love this film because it focuses on excellent storytelling, wonderful characters, beautiful layers of realism, and exceptional performances. If you like Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, or Moisés Arias, you will delight in their performances in this film. I loved this film and the story.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 horse races
Official Website: Jockey | Sony Pictures Classics
An aging jockey (Clifton Collins Jr.), hopes to win one last title for his longtime trainer (Molly Parker), who has acquired what appears to be a championship horse. But the years – and injuries – have taken a toll on his body, throwing into question his ability to continue his lifelong passion. And the arrival of a young rookie rider (Moises Arias), who claims to be his son, and whom he takes under his wing, further complicates the path to fulfilling his dream. JOCKEY is currently open in select theaters, opens in Phoenix this Friday January 14, 2022, and starts to open wide January 21, 2022 and on through February 2022.
ONE-LINER: An aging jockey aims for a final championship, when a rookie rider arrives claiming to be his son.