Clifton Collins Jr. stars as a middle-aged jockey whose last shot at glory is complicated by the arrival of a rookie claiming to be his son.
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Aging jockey Jackson Silva (Clifton Collins Jr.) is forced to come to terms with the limitations of his body, deteriorating after years of injuries, in order to train for the final championship of his career. Longtime trainer and sometime friend Ruth (Molly Parker) lends a sympathetic ear and a sought-after horse to increase his chances of that last victory lap. As Jackson reconnects with fellow jockeys who have made similar sacrifices — physically and emotionally — to become elite athletes in their insular sport, a rookie rider, Gabriel (Moises Arias), arrives claiming to be his son.
Director Clint Bentley, with co-writer and frequent collaborator Greg Kwedar, crafts a poignant, realistic character study of a man grappling with his professional legacy while bonding with a young athlete who reminds him of himself. The cinematography often captures the characters, many of whom are actual jockeys, in the gloaming — the glow of the setting sun like a collective memory of their halcyon days in the winner’s circle — against the darkening desert plains.
Collins, known for his frequently scene-stealing supporting roles, delivers a brilliant and shattering lead performance here. Gabriel’s eager-to-please vulnerability gives new purpose to a weary Jackson, and signals a passing of the torch to the next generation of jockeys who might follow a less self-destructive and lonely path. Jockey’s narrative restraint and understated, intimate drama allows Collins’s face and bearing to channel the full range of Jackson’s pain, sorrow, and stubborn yearning.
Official Selection, 2021 Toronto International Film Festival