Buck Brannaman travels around America running workshops to help people learn how to interact with their horses. His strikingly personal methods focus on establishing respect between horse and rider, with the understanding that both are just trying to do their best, even if both misbehave for whatever reason.
And Buck knows about these things from experience, growing up with a violently abusive father and a foster mother (Shirley) who taught him an earthy sense of compassion.
Filmmaker Meehl tells this story in a gentle way that cuts right through the surface. While capturing the grand vistas of Montana and California, she also cleverly highlights Brannaman's intimate relationship with the people and the horses he meets along the way, as well as his wife Mary, roping-expert daughter Reata and his own horse, of course. This is a man who has worked diligently to distance himself from his own childhood while developing the passion and skill to do something positive in his world.
Scene after scene catches us off guard with its raw humanity, both in the way Brannaman approaches a variety of horses and how he interacts with the people whose own behaviour is usually the cause of their horses' problems. One climactic sequence involves his interaction with a frighteningly wild horse that, like him, was raised without any positive parental influence. For Brannaman, its certainly not about "breaking" a horse; it's about finding a level of understanding between the species.
While the film is hugely inspiring in a variety of surprising ways, it's also raw and often very funny, as Brannaman gently pokes fun at people he meets and consistently undermines his own mythical status. Even his work with Redford on the film The Horse Whisperer is recounted with a wry smile. As Brannaman says, the fundamental key simply isn't how you treat your horse, it's how you treat your spouse, children and strangers. And as one student observes, "You don't know how unjust you're being until someone shows you a different path."
Run time: 88 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 16th February 2012
Box Office USA: $4.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $386.7 thousand
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: Back Allie Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 86 Rotten: 11
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Cindy Meehl
Producer: Julie Goldman
Starring: Buck Brannaman as Himself, Robert Redford as Himself
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