With “Jockey,” Clint Bentley does a great job in the double duty task of directing and writing. This is an actual test as his past is in shorts. “Jockey” is his first feature film.
Interestingly enough, and I think it shows, he does share writing credits with Greg Kwedar (Transpecos), someone he has worked with previously. Though the film is slow at times, you’ll see that they keep a reasonably good rhythm going. If you like the subject matter, you’ll enjoy the pace even more.
Here, Clifton Collins Jr. plays Jackson Silva, who’s, you guessed it, a jockey. Jackson’s finding he’s on the downward spiral of what his body can take from the pounding it gets when on the back of a horse. Not wanting to admit it, he still rides, hoping that no one else notices how much he hurts. Jackson mainly needs to keep his health from his trainer Ruth, played admirably by Molly Parker.
Cinematographer, Adolpho Veloso, takes every opportunity he can to make sure that you get a good look at one of the reasons Arizona is such a coveted spot to live. When the chance presents itself, the characters are shot with the sky in front of them or behind them. The sun blazes a bright red, orange, or both. You can’t help but notice its beauty. The film is shot at Turf Paradise, an actual horse track in Phoenix, Arizona. If you know the track, you’ll recognize the palm trees and mountains surrounding it.
Jackson knows his final race is coming soon but refuses to acknowledge the fact. It’s something he doesn’t want to admit to anyone, especially himself, and hopes no one has noticed. Our aging jockey, who hasn’t only seen that dropping the pounds has been difficult lately, has also noticed that his hands have begun to tremble just holding a riding crop. This isn’t good because falling off of a horse can injure him and the other jockeys on the track. He must consider this before jumping in the saddle again.
Not long into the film, Jackson meets Gabriel (Arias), a young man who reminds him of himself when he first started to ride. Jackson wants to help Gabriel become the best rider he can be and gives him advice whenever possible. Knowing he’s himself is one of the best around, and feeling he has a lot to offer, he’s happy passing on what he has learned over the years. In this respect, “Jockey” is similar to other movies pointing out the end of a career in sports, but not so much that you don’t stay engaged.
You learn that Gabriel, Jackson’s personal charge, could also be his son. What then starts to happen in the film are the blossoming of relationships in Jackson’s life, making him finally consider what he has given up in an attempt for the ultimate goal of being and staying at the top. There’s a deep conversation about life and death between Jackson and another jockey named Leo (Logan Cormier). It’s a profoundly emotional scene with some surprisingly poignant dialogue.
Following a year of films about throwing around the pigskin, why not try out this character study. It’s about the good and bad centered around the equestrian dream and what it’s like when that dream comes to an end. The performances (especially Collins’) telling this story achieve the desired effect with intimate moments touching and troubling you. I would have rated it higher had the pacing been tighter, but the film is definitely worth a watch.
Hey, Arizona! This movie opens in PHX on1/14 and in Tucson on 1/28.
Directed by: Clint Bentley
Written by: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar
Starring: Clifton Collins Jr., Moises Arias, Molly Parker, Logan Cormier
Run Time: 1h 34m