By Hal Robison, E23 Reporter

Writer and director Cory Finley’s debut, “Thoroughbreds”, is a darkly funny, pseudo-psycho thriller that delves into the lives of two well-bred Connecticut teenage girls whose friendship brings out each other’s worst tendencies.

Starring relative newcomers Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy (of 2015’s “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “The Witch” respectively) and the late Anton Yelchin, filmed before his death in 2016, the film will quickly pull you into its world. Between the sprawling suburban mansions and carefully tended stables, the girls of “Thoroughbreds” are a perfect example of the way these intricately bricked-up houses hide quite a lot behind their polished perfection. 

Lily holds a gun while Amanda stands at her side.

Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), left, and Amanda (Olivia Cooke), right, discuss the plan. (Source: Vimeo)

When the film begins, a sharp and observant Amanda (Olivia Cooke) meets with her childhood friend, the polished A-student Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), who was persuaded by Amanda’s mother to tutor Amanda for the SAT. While things are awkward between the two at first, since Amanda has become an outcast because of rumors surrounding the death of her family horse, Lily is eventually drawn to Amanda’s aloof, deadpan and sometimes brutal honesty. As Amanda observes the tumultuous relationship between Lily and her rude, physique-obsessed stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks), she somewhat randomly muses, “Have you ever thought about killing him?”

From this moment forward, the girls are bound together by this idea, eventually bringing in a local drug hustler named Tim (Anton Yelchin)—well, a thirty-year-old who still lives with his dad and sells weed to teenagers at parties—to help them in their plan’s execution (literally).

The three characters conspire while sitting in a car.

From left to right, Tim (Anton Yelchin), Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) discuss their options. (Source: Vimeo)

The film itself is spectacularly well-done, especially for it being Finley’s first directorial venture. The cinematography is beautiful—long, uncut shots follow Amanda as she walks through Lily’s beautiful, almost-too-perfect mansion, and everything feels extremely intentional. So many things about the film made my skin crawl: uncomfortably intimate close-ups, loud chewing noises and long silences punctuate the discussions between Lily, Amanda and their families and friends. This film wants you to get close enough to see the things that make you uncomfortable under the surface. The film is also artistic in unexpected ways—some of the biggest climactic moments aren’t even shown and are instead illustrated through sound and music.

To me, the film is entirely sustained by Lily and Amanda’s strange, destructive friendship, while other characters are just briefly passing through. Cooke and Taylor-Joy work incredibly well together, and the dynamic between the two of them makes them one of my favorite film duos in a long time. While some critics wished the film settled more heavily on a specific theme or message, I love the moral ambiguity of the film, and I fully expect this dramatic dark comedy thriller to become a cult classic.

Catch “Thoroughbreds” showing at Ragtag now through March 22.

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