Cindy Meehl’s directorial debut follows America’s original horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman,
directorial debut follows America’s original horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman,
as he crosses the US countryside teaching not only a method of training horses
but also a subliminal means of self-discipline in steady humble tones.
Fortunately for Meehl her documentary’s subject is assured
in front of the camera, talking openly about his turbulent childhood at the
hands of a short-tempered, heavy-handed father and the death of his mother in a
series of interviews interspersed with footage of his training. Whether you’re
quietly curious about horse whispering, a firm believer or think the concept is
utter codswallop, the lingering shots of Buck’s calm disposition as he
approaches the animals with the weight of his past now evident upon his
shoulders, convinces even a steadfast pessimist of the possibility that he has
some connection with the beast he’s facing.
Through careful juxtaposition of Brannaman’s past and
present life, we watch black and white footage of an infant twirling a lasso
around his torso as he is forced into the early stages of his career by a
greedy parent before moving to the present day as Buck’s teenage daughter joins
him on the road, keenly treading in her father’s footsteps and developing a
career of her own on horseback.
The subject of horse whispering also opens up a vat of
deeper meaning. At one point our whisperer declares “If you understand what I’m
talking about, it will make you better in areas that you didn’t think were
related to horses,” and there are some tender moments in the film where Buck
confronts a fellow trainer, confirming that his attitudes shift beyond the
horses to the humans themselves.
A well-rounded and kind subject it’s hard not to warm to
Buck and his ethics. Some of his lines may have been heard many times before as
he preaches trust and patience but he never seems rehearsed or corny. At one
point in the interview he talks about travelling alone and the simple pleasure
of walking across his own lounge in his socks, highlighting clear solace in
domestic life following a disruptive upbringing.
Buck is a collectively pleasant viewing experience, nothing
more. The recollection of his earlier days are trying to hear but watching this
personality develop through the accounts of his family, friends and one-time
colleague Robert Redford, who filled
the central role in The Horse Whisperer resonates sweetness and makes for a