Clifton Collins Jr. stars as a middle-aged jockey whose last shot at glory is complicated by the arrival of a rookie claiming to be his son.
Aging jockey Jackson Silva (Clifton Collins Jr.) is forced to come to terms with the limitations of his body, deteriorating after years of working through injuries, in order to train for the final championship of his career. Longtime trainer and sometime friend Ruth (Molly Parker) lends a sympathetic ear and a sought-after horse to increase his chances of that last victory lap. As Jackson reconnects with fellow jockeys who have made similar sacrifices – physically and emotionally – to become elite athletes in their insular sport, a rookie rider arrives claiming to be his son.
Director Clint Bentley, with co-writer and frequent collaborator Greg Kwedar, crafts a poignant, realistic character study of a man who grapples with his professional legacy through a growing bond with a young athlete who reminds him of himself. The cinematography often captures the characters, many of whom are actual jockeys, in the gloaming – the glow of the setting sun like a collective memory of their halcyon days in the winner’s circle – against the darkening desert plains. (Director Bentley is on solid ground here, as his father was a jockey.)
Collins Jr., known for his frequently scene-stealing supporting roles, delivers a brilliant and shattering lead performance here. As Gabriel, the potential heir, Moises Arias’s eager-to-please vulnerability not only gives new purpose to a weary Jackson, but also signals a passing of the torch to the next generation of jockeys who will possibly follow a less self-destructive and lonely path. In its narrative restraint, JOCKEY’s understated and intimate drama allows Collins Jr.’s face and bearing to channel the full range of Jackson’s pain, sorrow, and stubborn yearning.
-Robyn Citizen, TIFF