“These horses will run till they drop. You have to tell a horse it’s time to stop.”
Many people want to pass on a legacy. It is more than just wanting to give something of value to a future generation. It can be a validation of one’s life. It can be something that lives on after us. Jockey, from director and co-writer Clint Bentley, centers on just what that can mean—for the giver and the receiver.
Jackson Silva (Clifton Collins, Jr.) has spent his life riding. Now his aging body is not as up to the task as it used to be. He’s hoping to get one more season in. When Ruth Wilkes (Molly Parker), the trainer he’s been close to through his career, finds a special horse, it may be their ticket to a new level. For Jackson, it would be the capstone on his career. But is he up to bringing the horse along?
Meanwhile, a young jockey, Gabriel Boullait (Moises Arias) seems to be paying a lot of attention to Jackson. When they speak, Gabriel claims to be Jackson’s son. Jackson dismisses the idea. But after a while, the thought grows on him, and he takes Gabriel under his wing to help him develop as a jockey. I’m often a sucker for father/son stories. This one has an interesting twist that comes into play. What is this relationship, really? Is it really a father/son dynamic? From whose perspective?
Bentley grew up “behind the barns” of the racing circuit. His father was a jockey and then a trainer. He wanted to capture the reality of that world. To do so, he uses some non-professional actors—real people from that world. Some of the interesting scenes include when these jockeys relate the litanies of their injuries, or briefly seeing a local pastor leading them in prayer to start the day.
Jackson is a man who is facing his mortality from the perspective of being a jockey. That is who he is. When the day comes that he will no longer be able to ride, what will become of him? We see in Jackson and the other jockeys that it is not the injuries or aging that kill their careers, it is fear. Once fear takes hold, they cannot ride as well ever again.
As his symptoms worsen (and we learn there is more here than just an aging body), can he manage that one last big ride to secure his legacy? Or is his legacy something bigger than winning a race?
The film has many scenes shot at sunrise and at sunset. That sets the tone of what this story is telling us. The sun is setting on Jackson’s career, but it may be the dawn for Gabriel. The passage from dusk to dawn may be Jackson’s real legacy.
Jockey is showing in select theaters
Photos courtesy of Sony Picture Classics.