‘Thoroughbreds’: The Cinematic Study of a Twisted Mind

By Olivia Norwood, Edited by Anthony Peyton

With the rise of teenage girls being the center of film nowadays, Thoroughbreds proves to be the oddball amongst the usual coming-of-age drama. It’s not a Lady Bird and it’s certainly no Sixteen Candles – but that is the beauty of it. It’s a commentary on humanity itself.

The New York based playwright Cory Finley makes a promising leap from stage to screen with his directorial debut that showcases his broad understanding of tension and empathy.

Set within the privileged bubble of upper class America, the emotional Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and the emotionally deficient Amanda (Olivia Cooke) strike up an unlikely friendship as they bond over their vindictive plan of wiping out Lily’s step-father, Mark (Paul Sparks). The story, although initially carrying a very horror-esque style, uses suspense to bring even the slow moments meaning and purpose leading up to the dramatic climax at the end.  

Although the lack of action resulted in a sluggish pace, Finley uses it intentionally. Much of the nervous build up is due to the eerie and disturbing score, composed by Erik Friedlander, that is made up of all of the sounds one might hear in an empty, noisy mansion (i.e. creaks, footsteps, and rumbling). Using this, the film can produce the fear that the characters feel and the frightening tension between them.

The suspense, of course, could not have been achieved without the performances of its stars Cooke and Taylor-Joy. Both actresses instill anxiety in their audience while exposing the behavior of the unsuspecting everyday psychopath. Cooke takes on a character that is very unusual for her to play but delivers the dark and sociopathic Amanda effortlessly and never strays away from the idea that she is still a human and not entirely empty. Amanda is intelligent, emotionless, and leading a carefree life away from remorse or guilt.

On the other hand, Taylor-Joy plays the over emotional, self-centered Lily who seemingly could never hurt a fly. But the actress takes this character to a whole other level that compares her morality against Amanda’s and contemplates if living a life of no emotion really makes a difference in situations where morality is violated.

Could Lily, filled with rage for her stepfather, be a vengeful killer or is the overwhelming feeling of guilt and losing her humanity a deal breaker? Lily is used as a contrast for Amanda – and vice versa- to inquire if one is more capable than the other of murder.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter.

Whether you’re a borderline psychopath or an emotion-lead killer, both are capable of the worst. Both use either their feelings – or the lack thereof – as a motive. Lily uses them as revenge towards her stepfather, Mark, while Amanda kind of just doesn’t care as she believes she has nothing to truly live for.  

Many of the critics’ reviews of this thoroughly investigative film were missing this point. Manohla Dargis states in her New York Times piece that Cory Finley “never settles on a point or theme” and seems to be “invested in performing a cultural autopsy on Lily and Amanda”. While it is agreeable that the dissection of privilege and class was an odd message to the film, Dargis also misses the true theme. Finley aimed to reinforce the idea that humans, psychopath or not, are fully aware and completely capable of the violation that they are partaking in.

Thoroughbreds dives into the world of psychopathy and human capability by successfully developing a new lens of how every mind is different from another but no matter what the condition is, anyone can be twisted.

My Rating: 87.5%

Acting: 4/4

Cinematography: 3.5/4

Story: 3.5/4

Enjoyability: 3/4



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