War Pony review: Subtle drama set in a corner of Native American society

Two young men on a South Dakota reservation represent different stages of reality for today’s Native Americans.

For 12-year-old Matho (LaDainian Crazy Thunder), life is all about vaulting towards adulthood in the hope of gaining acceptance from his young father.

The most immediate way he can see to do this is to steal drugs from his dad and deal them himself.

Bill (Jojo Bapteise Whiting) is in his early 20s, meanwhile, and trying to scratch out a living however he can. A chance encounter with a poultry baron leads to employment more legitimate than he is used to – but changing his ways and going straight won’t be simple.

Actor-turned-director Riley Keough met Native Americans Franklin Sioux Bob and Bill Reddy on the set of American Honey, and soon the idea for War Pony was spawned.

Co-writing with the pair, as well as her co-director Gina Gammell, Keough’s chance encounter has proved serendipitous.

This Caméra d’Or winner (for best debut feature at Cannes) is a keenly observed, subtle, and challenging drama about a corner of society never included in the American dream, one that reveals both the spirit and longing found there.

Four stars

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