Review: Ponyboi (Sundance 2024)


Title: Ponyboi
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Esteban Arango
Starring: River Gallo, Dylan O’Brien, Murray Bartlett
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins

What It Is: On Valentines Day, a young intersex sex worker that goes by the name Ponyboi (River Gallo) winds up in a messy bit of trouble when one of their clients dies from a drug overdose. Having to go on the run from mobsters and their pimp, Vinny (Dylan O’Brien), Ponyboi finds themselves having to survive a hostile world where one false move could equal death.

What We Think: This film is a unique take. We have seen the prostitute trying to outrun their pimp plotline done before, but having the prostitute be intersex is a whole new POV we haven’t seen before. It’s honestly refreshing to see an intersex main character and this movie does a great job in terms of representation. Ponyboi is an interesting character, and one that you do find yourself wanting to root for throughout the film. From very early on, the film does a good job at showing you how the world isn’t necessarily the friendliest or most understanding towards them while also establishing that they are handling their own pretty well. Ponyboi feels like a real person with flaws and likable traits. They’re a very well rounded character.

In the film, towards the later back half it does feel like the plot gets a little messy and not as focused, but the first half by contrast feels laser pointed. Some events I’m not sure were necessary to the plot and felt like they were added there for extended screen time. Some of the characters such as the mobsters and some of the prostitute characters felt a little two dimensional. Aside from Ponyboi themselves, Vinny and Ponyboi’s love interest Bruce (played subtly but beautifully by Murray Bartlett) were arguably the most interesting characters. Vinny was an interesting antagonist and Bruce was interesting due to how enigmatic he was. All in all the writing was decent, but made way for a fun film.

Now, let’s address the acting. River Gallo was absolutely amazing as Ponyboi. Since they were the writer, it makes sense that they would be able to add an intimate an honest appeal to their character, but River does it amazingly. There was never a time that Ponyboi didn’t come off as somehow both vulnerable and badass. Very, very awesome acting. Next bit of praise goes towards Dylan O’Brien, who I didn’t even recognize as Vinny when he played the role. Anytime an actor is able to hide themself well enough in a role that I completely am unable to identify them, big kudos.

Our Grade: B+, All in all, I thought this film was a decent thriller with great representation and I very much enjoyed watching it. Other than some plot and character nitpicks, this neon crime drama definitely was a fun ride.

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