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  • Writer's pictureGareth Bradwick

Concrete Cowboy ★★★

Ricky Staub

Starring Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome, Byron Bowers, Lorraine Toussaint

Set within a small Philadelphia community, Concrete Cowboy sees a troubled young man (Caleb McLaughlin) sent to his father’s (Idris Elba) for the summer to live within a tight-knit group of black cowboys.

Part of the joy of this is that it is a real community, with some of that community actually acting in key roles within the movie. It is a life that not many people, even locally, would know too much about but clearly it is hugely influential for the people lucky enough to be a part of it.

As for the film itself, the cinematography is gorgeous to look at and there is an earthiness to each shot that could be appreciated for hours. The acting by most involved is great too with Elba an obvious stand out and a great screen presence. McLaughlin also carries the film well as Cole, the young man with an attitude problem that turns in to a love for all things equine. It’s the brilliant Jharrel Jerome who plays Smush that gets sold a little short, as his character is just a vehicle for Cole to realise the error of his ways. Jerome was fantastic in When They See Us so it would have been good to see more of him here.

The story though is a little forgettable. The plot is one we’ve seen quite a lot, just with added horses, and it generally treads familiar paths to a teen angst movie (did I mention there were horses though?). Behind those initial layers is something really interesting that would actually play out better as a TV series. It’s a fascinating world and it felt that we had only explored the surface by the time it was time to leave. A long form drama would have worked better and shifted the spotlight away from the drug problems and allowing more screen time for this community.

Definitely worth a watch as it is simply great to look at, nice to be in their world and will simply add to the patchwork joy of human life.

Concrete Cowboy available now on Netflix

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