Thoroughbreds aims to throw you for a loop from the starts – and it works. There are things are that funny that shouldn’t be, there are scenes that feel ominous but aren’t, and when one half our of heroine duo doesn’t feel or believe, anything, then we need to figure out if we as the audience really cares what happens to her. She certainly doesn’t care.
Amanda (Olivia Cooke) and Lily (Ana-Taylor Joy) are former childhood friends now forced to reunite on the verge of adulthood. That’s because they both find themselves in trouble by school, society, and their family. They come from well off households – and Lily’s stepdad in particular has a large mansion and lofty income that allows him to be a jerk to Lily and her mom – and expectations are high for them.
It’s Amanda’s issues that are noted right away. The film open with a couple quick, creepy shots. One has Amanda starring in the face of a stabled horse in the middle of the night. The next shows her hand reaching for a knife. So she did something, and when we meet her, she doesn’t care. That is to say, she has no emotions, positive or negative, she claims. Her blunt way of speaking unnerves the more superficially proper Lily, who would rather make niceties and keep uncomfortable subjects in the dark.
Amanda needs a friend according to her mother, and Lily needs, well, something else, as we find. While these two decidedly different teenagers are forced to spend time together, studying and formalities turn to musing and scheming. Lily’s current situation, after all, isn’t ideal – and Amanda is someone who gets things done.
Two impressive performances by the leading women, in addition to newcomer writer and director Cory Finley’s careful craftsmanship positions Thoroughbreds as a curious, consistently uncomfortable yet engrossing psychological thriller. The conversations throughout the film are either sharply funny or terrifying direct; at other times, the camera follows characters as they wander through space, with offbeat, unsettling music playing in the background as if something wild were about to happen at any minute.
Thoroughbreds wants to and succeeds at enticing your mind with ideas and decisions, less interested in showing blood, death then referencing and describing it (although there are a few moments with quite a bit of blood. It’s not laugh out loud funny, nor is it particularly scary – but it unquestionable will make you smirk with surprise and recoil in shock. And all the build-up, the hopes and dreams and discussions, lead to action and decisiveness and in a thoroughly satisfying finale.