Linda Cook review: Saddle up for ‘Concrete Cowboy’

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“Concrete Cowboy” is a fictional, solid look at a community that’s as real as can be.

The star is a character named Cole (Caleb McLaughlin, “Stranger Things”) who is kicked out of school because of fighting.

His weary mother doesn’t know what to do with him. She finally decides she will send Cole to his father, Harp (the wonderful Iris Elba), a man he doesn’t know.

Harp is part of a small Black community in north Philadelphia whose lives revolve around horses – Harp even has a horse in row house. Harp really is a cowboy, as are many of his friends.

Cole is bewildered by Harp’s lifestyle and what he sees around him. It doesn’t take him long to seek the familiar sights of the street life with a friend named Smush (Jharrel Jerome, “Moonlight.”)

Smush introduces Cole to drug dealing, welcoming him with a great pair of sneakers that almost immediately are fouled by what’s left by the horses.

Meanwhile, Cole’s father is putting Cole to work. Cole learns to clean up after the horses, and hears the stories shared by the community in a mostly tranquil life that’s not part of the night street life Cole also gets caught up in.

One of the horses, a previously untamed animal, takes a liking to Cole, who learns what it’s like to appreciate the companionship of an animal that in turn appreciates him.

The importance of fathers and father figures is among the themes. There are several tender moments. My favorite is when Harp tells his son how he gave his son his name.

I loved learning about this community. I felt much as I did when I watched “Nomadland,” which also gives viewers a glimpse of Americans who have chosen to live on the road instead of a home or an apartment.

Adding to the authenticity are real riders from the Fletcher Street community.

Saddle up to see, and learn about, a fascinating American community and a compelling coming-of-age story.

3 stars

Rated: R for foul language, violence and drug abuse.

Running time: One hour and 51 minutes.

Streaming on Netflix.

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