Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Aging jockey Jackson (Clifton Collins Jr.) has become weathered due to decades on the riding circuit. After noticing changes in his hand, he learns he’s facing a debilitating illness. Realizing this might be his last championship race, he practises with the help of trainer Ruth (Molly Parker) and a promising young horse. Further changes begin happening in Jackson’s life when young jockey, Gabriel (Moisés Arias), claims to be his son.
Director and Co-Writer Clint Bentley has brought audiences into the life of a middle-aged jockey. We witness the importance of the relationship between jockey, trainer and horse. And while peaking on the men who ride, we learn of the costs to body and mind. Bentley’s shots, with help from the talents of Director of Photography Adolpho Veloso, of the Arizona sunsets against the stables and track, are breathtaking. They collide with the heartbreaking performance from Collins Jr.
He steers this touching portrait of a man facing the sunset of his career. He embodies a complex man who has spent his life at something that is about to be ripped away from him. He excels particularly in Jackson‘s refusal to accept Gabriel as his son. And then slowly exposing the hope that grows in believing he might be. Collins Jr. and Arias have beautiful chemistry that leaps from the screen. They depict two men at different stages of their career: one ending, one beginning. We get to see the excitement of beginning in the career you yearn for, and the anguish in watching it slip away.
Arias is strong as Gabriel whose aspiration and ambition are palpable. He’s best in quiet scenes between Gabriel and Jackson discussing the passion for the sport. Additionally, Parker is a standout as empathetic Ruth. She exudes both Ruth’s hunger for a win and her care for Jackson’s condition.
Jockey is a poignant look at the desires of career and family. It brings us right into the world of being a jockey and its taxing costs to the body. Further, it’s an exploration of the importance of family; whether it be through blood or spirit.
Jockey screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 31 at 6 PM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24 hours): February 2 at 10 AM (EST)