Image Credit: Focus Features
When an unlikely friendship from childhood rekindles in their teens years, two girls begin to understand the darker side of each other, and humanity. Crooked, slight, pointed, and oddly humorous, Thoroughbreds is a wonderfully fresh entry into the teenage thriller genre, and a surprising directorial debut from Cory Finley. I was impressed by all the performances of Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), Amanda (Olivia Cooke), and Tim (the late Anton Yelchin). These three characters are fleshed-out, honest, and nasty. What truly delighted me about this film was its ability to subvert expectations with taste. The framing, score, editing, and cold acting gave the film a very unique and darkly, comedic tone. Though at times this picture may seem like it is trying too hard to be cool, overall the experience has a strong pay-off for any film lovers who appreciate a good blend of substance and style.
Our plot’s rubber meets the road when Amanda’s psychopathic lack of empathy is exposed and discussed by our two main characters. This is juxtaposed very well with Lily’s extreme sensitivity and desire to please others. Christians should not be fooled into thinking this project glorifies evil, but rather utilizes a very dark situation to expose our own evil natures.
Are We All a Little Psychopathic?
Unless I missed something, one of the main points of the entire film is the entropy and exposure of evil humanity when placed in certain contexts. The girls’ emotional and mental states place them on two opposite ends of a spectrum, and the as narrative progresses, it becomes increasingly clear why Lily is so extremely fond of Amanda. In short, Amanda is capable of doing things, like murder, that Lily would love to, but society will not allow. It is scary when stated this way, since contemporary social science will tell us that empathy, alone, sets Lily apart from Amanda. Yet, we see that Lily further prizes Amanda for her psychopathy; for her, this friendship is an opportunity to get away with a horrible act.
What if the reason we do not murder is because of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, or simply because we do not want to get caught? What if our empathy is much smaller than we assumed? What if the opportunity to do evil presented itself to us; would we seize it, like Lily? Now, all Christians at this point are emphatically responding, “We do not murder because we love God and obey his commandments!” Yes, and that is only because of God’s Spirit in us (Romans 8:12-13). My questions above, obviously, assume the opposite: what if God’s Spirit had not brought you from death to life, and then you were placed in Lily’s shoes?
The sad part about our theology today is that we, like a parrot, can repeat back solid doctrine, but we do not realize, in our hearts, what we are truly saying. We all know that we are bad and need God to save us, but how bad are we really? Could we really say that, apart from God’s common and special grace, we are murderers and adulterers at heart? If we would say otherwise, we might be surprised to find that our Lord disagrees. In the Sermon on the Mount, he indicates the exact opposite: anyone even angry with his brother will be subject to judgment, and anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has committed adultery (Matthew 5). As My Epic says in their song “Lashes”, we often don’t care for innocence, just the appearance.
May God grant us repenting graces to see the evil in our hearts, and believing graces as we cling to Christ for aid.