The film follows fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson. He wants a home, food on the table and a high school he can attend for more than part of the year. As the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, stability is hard to find. Hoping for a new start they move to Portland, Oregon where Charley takes a summer job, with a washed-up horse trainer, and befriends a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete.
Chloë Sevigny revealed that she was originally approached to play Charley’s aunt, but her agent fought for her to play Bonnie because the latter character is a larger role with “more [for Sevigny] to sink her teeth into.”