Jockey Review – Engaging, Authentic, Riveting

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Jockey, from Sony Pictures Classics, brings to the screen an insider's view behind the scenes at the racetrack for the riders who struggle with the demands of the job as they carve out a small piece of life.

The film begins as dawn is breaking and two "old-timers" are talking ringside as the jockey's are working out the horses. It is another day at the track. We meet Jackson Silva, played by Clifton Collins, Jr., as he meets up with his longtime employer, horse trainer Ruth Wilkes, played by Molly Parker.

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There is a familiarity between the two, at first glance they could be lovers or were at one time. They talk about the horses as she explains the expectations. It is another day in a career of riding to win.

Like any sport, age is the enemy. For Jackson, his passion and longevity has come with a steep price. Although he and Ruth are friendly, he understands one hint of his injuries and his career as a jockey, even with their history, is over. Today, we see he is losing feeling his hand and is unable to grip the reins.

He visits the on-site veterinarian, and we understand the x-rays show a curved spine and pelvis, the injuries are shocking. Jackson realizes his days are limited as the years have taken a toll on his body, throwing into question his ability to continue his lifelong passion.

We move through his usual day, which in the track world is typical, up before dawn, feed and work the horses, train on the simulator, and sweat out the few calories consumed at breakfast to meet the race weight.

Walking into the local diner, he passes booth after booth greeting the regulars until he comes to a table. Sitting he begins to talk to the young jockey Gabriel, played by Moises Arias. We understand the escalation is quick as Jackson accuses him of stalking him.

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Gabriel blurts out a hard stop reply which causes Jackson to pause and suddenly spiral into the impossibility of him being his father. Which then spirals into him telling Gabriel he's a stalking, crazy who heard about his winnings and thinks he will play the daddy sympathy card and shake him down.

For a moment we understand Jackson doesn't want to be his dad, but we don't hear any practical evidence has too why he couldn't be. Now with this the second bombshell of the day, Jackson attends the group session, where the others are talking about the issues that are always presents: Being thrown from the horse and trampled, barely survivable benefits, the physical demands, stress, stamina and keeping the weight down by rationing food 24/7. At every meal the only choice is the smaller half.

And finally, it is race time, we understand Jackson leads as no mud is kicked up on his goggles. There is no one in front of him and once again, he sails to the winner's circle.

With another win under his belt, we find that Ruth, his trainer acquired a championship horse. Between the two of them, we understand the qualities that create a champion are visible. Jackson and Ruth are in awe, and again they begin to finish each other's sentences as they chart the races it will take to get her to the big stake purses.

Suddenly, in an instant the relationship between the two take a more serious tone, Jackson wants to be the jockey that rides the beauty into the winner's circle and Ruth wants him to be that jockey, unfortunately she explains we've all gotten a bit lazy so to ride this one, he will need to drop the pounds.

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This sets up the final act of the film. We understand the challenges of taking off the winter weight, the effort seems wasted and useless, his injuries are aggravated with each ride, his relationships are becoming strained and in act of benevolence he decides to take Gabriel under his wing, which further complicates his life.

Jockey is immediately engaging with stunning realism, almost documentarian style. We are privileged with a behind the scenes look at the racetrack life, and the challenges and obstacles faced each day. Jockey is not the feel-good film where the underdog manages to triumph over the obstacles and in a stroke of good fortune the planets align. Jockey is real, honest, and gutsy, filled with hard truths of lives few ever see.

An audience winner, Jockey is riveting and authentic with shocking realism.

Jockey opens in theaters December 29, 2021. See it.

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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Release date: December 29, 2021.

Runtime: 94minutes.

Directed by Clint Bentley.

Written by Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar.

Producer: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar, Nancy Schafer.

Starring: Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias, Logan Cormier, Colleen Hartnett.

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