Glamor disappears from the world of horse racing in the film Jockey. Using actors and real jockeys, writer-director Clint Bentley gets an insider feel for a simple story about a man in the sunset of his career. However, the film opens with a sunrise, as main character Jackson follows his love and habit by heading to a track.
Moving with the ease of a man who puts on boots every day and instantly recognizes a good horse, actor Clifton Collins, Jr steps into the role of Jackson as if the two breathe the same breath. Usually seen in supporting roles for such films as The Boondock Saints, Collins flourishes in his star turn. He and Molly Parker of Deadwood work wonderfully together, displaying the camaraderie of longtime friends who put on no shows for one another.
The actors’ professionalism raises Jockey above the beginner level of independent film, though it represents a first for director Bentley. He gets a boost from his own background growing up in the race world. The resulting in-depth knowledge shows as characters reveal tricks of the trade plus the ins and outs of jockeying. Like Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao, Bentley grabs extra authenticity from non-professionals and the firsthand stories they tell. One standout comes as jockeys describe the events leading to the various scars they display with a mix of pride and regret.
Bentley also deals with existing locations in the Phoenix area and successfully navigates the complications of shooting an emotionally strong scene inside the cramped space of a little trailer. While some of Bentley’s shots capture a documentary feel with shaky handheld movement, much of the cinematography (from Adolpho Veloso) shows a steady eye that reflects the subtle beauty of the world portrayed—one with such daily moments of bliss as a rising sun.