BUCK (director: Cindy Meehl; cinematographers: Guy Mossman/Luke Geissbühler; editor: Toby Shimin; music: David Robbins; Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Julie Goldman; IFC Films; 2011)
“Stirring low-key and no-nonsense documentary on renown horse trainer Buck Brannaman.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
First-time filmmaker Cindy Meehl, fashion designer turned artist, directs this stirring low-key and no-nonsense documentary on renown horse trainer Buck Brannaman, who advocates training horses naturally by using patience and sensitivity instead of force. The 49-year-old Buck, happily married and with two teenage daughters, became known through his work as an adviser on Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer (1968), as his life inspired the title character. Buck is shown giving horse clinics across the country for forty weeks of the year, as he goes cross-country to give ranchers seminars in how to gently get their horses to follow their orders instead of following the traditional ways which are sometimes violent. Buck at 3 worked with his older brother in Montana doing rope-trick performances on the rodeo circuit. His caring mom died when he was a teenager and the frightened boy had to live with his abusive drunken father. When Buck’s high school football coach noticed bruises over his body when showering, he informed the authorities and as a a result Buck lived in a wonderful foster home run by the kind-hearted Betsy Shirley. We learn only that Buck’s older brother Smokie had a career in the Coast Guard, but are not given any information on how he handled the same dire circumstances as his brother. Buck’s first job was working for famed pioneer natural-horsemanship proponent Ray Hunt, and the shy lad became his protégé and overcame his horrible childhood abuse by learning how to communicate in such a loving way with his horse friends.
It’s genuinely heart-warming and inspiring to see how Buck, a decent regular guy, work his craft by gently communicating with the horses, and how he’s onto something by saying it’s not different from raising children–some need more attention and love than others. Buck leaves us with the following pearls of wisdom: “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will” and he tells us in a matter of fact way that “rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.”
REVIEWED ON 7/17/2011 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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