They ride horses in North Philadelphia (Concrete Cowboy)

I just finished watching Concrete Cowboy on Netflix and it was fantastic! Idris Elba and a fine performance by Caleb McLaughlin (of Stranger Things), as urban cowboys in the city in North Philly. It is part a coming of age story, and equal parts redemption and tragedy. Two young men try to deal their way out of deprivation and lack of choices in the city, Coltrane – Caleb’s character, is going off the rails, his mother can’t cope any more and fears she is going to lose him, so sends him away from Detroit to live with his father, a member of the black cowboy subculture in the city of Brotherly Love. Coltrane arrives to find a horse in his father’s front room, other houses turned into stables, and immediately kicks against the pricks. In walks his childhood friend, Smoosh. Smoosh is riding the streets in a car not a horse, and dealing a little to try buy his way out of poverty. You want to rush into the movie, drag these two lovely young men out of this story and into another. In a way, that is exactly what plays out. Coltrane’s father, whom he has not seen at all growing up, changes the plot from gangster movie, to cowboy western, with horse racin

g and boy comes of age, finds a nice girl and breaks his own horse in. I won’t spoil it from here. Just to say it is heartbreaking and life affirming in equal parts and based entirely in reality. There is really a black cowboy community in N Philly, and they really do ride horses in the city. It is a story of going your own way, family, living the life you want to live, despite society dragging you down all the way and trying to force you into their way of living. From what little I know it is an immensely inspirational, vibrant community, and I can only wish one day I get to watch them ride. I can’t find any photographs that it is acceptable to repost here – due to copyright, instead point you towards the movie and the excellent NYT article on the Compton (

Leave a Reply