Some Messy Thoughts on Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbreds (2017) questions class, privilege and the foundations on which we build relationships with each other. This brief discussional contains spoilers throughout and should be read with that in mind.

The film opens with Amanda, eye to eye with a horse and then it cuts to black just after she picks up a short, sharp knife. The next scene is Amanda entering Lily’s residence where her reaction is observational, unfamiliar with the surroundings that are then keenly studied.

This is where we get the first topic that I want to explore, class. This environment is full of an invisible servant grouping, they appear as needed and then vanish. Later in the film Lily puts down an unfinished pack of crisps and goes to seal it up, Amanda tells her not to bother and Lily places it back on the counter and moves away, then a maid pops into existence to seal up the bag and, task complete, vanishes from the narrative. Later in the film, when Amanda is discussing the best time to murder her father she lists points when certain people will be around the house, in that planning the servants are never considered or mentioned.

That causal privileged expectation of wealth, where someone appears to pick up the remnants of our lives, sorts them out and then they just disappear, is a foreign concept for Amanda but her own unfamiliarity is minor compared that experienced in the later appearance of drug dealer and registered sex offender Tim. His entry to Lily/Mark’s residence is positively religious, he fawns over the luxury car, gazes in wonder at the gilded cherub surrounded clocks and the first shot we have of him outside of the house is in fisheye, exaggerating its size alongside his smallness in comparison.

It creates a clear hierarchy on action but only condemns it implicitly, the wealth isn’t seen as aspirational or admirable rather factual. This is the society in which Thoroughbreds operates, corrupt, nepotistic and cruel, success is achieved through selfishness. This is why Amanda is doomed to fail, she, despite her insistence that she is emotionless she expresses care for Lily, she seeks out her company and correspondence. For these reasons, even if they are only acted reasons, she seems more compassionate than Lily.

Amanda acts and functions as Lily’s protector, when Lily in a destructive act stays underwater long enough to drown Amanda sweeps in and pulls her up, when Lily and Mark are confronting each other the aftermath has Amanda asserting that because she was there, Lily was safe. This protection is contingent on truth, the times that Amanda pushes back is when she knows she is being lied to. Therefore, at Lily’s murder of Mark at the end of the film Lily needs to be able to do more than just blame an unconscious Amanda, she needs complicity. In confessing to Amanda that she has roofied her drink she brings Amanda into the lie, Amanda accepts that her friend has told her the truth and acts seemingly independently to consume the knowingly roofied drink. Protecting Lily, her friend, by giving her a willing person to pin the murder on.

It is a cynical position to take, assuming that the confession is calculated but it is one that is borne out again and again, Lily uses people, but at each point before now, when she has tried to use Amanda it has been through lies, which all fail, so her path forward can only be located in truth of a sort. The film ends with both Lily and Amanda exactly where they want to be, in positions of safety and security, but Amanda has clearly abandoned her friend to live the life she wants.

Lily functions exactly as the servants in Amanda’s world, she appears to clear up the mess of her step-father, then having served her function she just disappears. She is no longer relevant.

 

Postscript

A brief digression to observe the presentation of violence. In this film there is a constant allusion to violence but it is always implied rather than enacted visually, witnessed instead with its after effects, the blood on the floor, on peoples hands, in a bathtub. The messy act of committing is limited to the sound and the absence of sound. In one notable scene Lily asks for and gets the pictures of the horse that Amanda had mutilated and messily killed, in her amateurishly executed mercy killing, this part is shot from a fixed position, with only the back of the laptop shown, the sounds of Skype messages being received and the expressions on Amanda’s face the only evidence of the presence of the gory photos. The denouement, where Lily, resolved, goes upstairs to murder her step-father is heard while the camera lingers on the roofied figure of Amanda.

I remain uncertain of the significance of this.

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