Introverted teenager Charley (Charlie Plummer) has little security; his mother has disappeared, his young father has enough trouble keeping his own life on the rails. No wonder Charley grasps the opportunity to stand on his own two feet.
He gets a job working for grumpy horse trainer Del Montgomery (Steve Buscemi at his grubbiest). With him and the jockey Bonnie (Chloë Sevigny), he travels to horse races in dusty towns, with the grand American landscape as backdrop. Charley finds an unexpected soulmate in the horse 'Lean on Pete', but when it’s threatened with a trip to the glue factory, the boy faces an adult choice for the first time in his life.
Just as in his films Weekend and 45 Years, Andrew Haigh balances on the edge between melancholy and optimism in this film version of Willy Vlautin's novel. He sees the world through Charley's youthful and innocent eyes, without losing sight of the painful tragedy of the lives of Del and Bonnie.