Director: Robert Redford
Writer: Nicholas Evans (Novel)
Starring: Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Neill, Dianne Wiest, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Cooper
I am a sucker for any great horse film – such as Black Beauty, but unlike War Horse.
And The Horse Whisperer is certainly way up there in terms of lack of soppiness, being accurate in the training and horse terms as well as having a strong sense of realism.
So it begins in the most idyllic farm blanketed in thick snow. Grace (the young Scarlett Johansson) puts her riding boots on and tip toes out of the house. She sees he friend over in the next field and yells “HELLO!!” with steam coming from her mouth and her voice echoing. “HELLOOO!!” her friend replies and they run toward each other, then make their way to the stables.
This is my idea of paradise which is why this film starts out on an instant high.
Unfortunately during their ride, Grace’s friend and her horse get hit by a truck and die. The accident was filmed so well! And when I say that it was filmed well, I mean insatiablely exquisitely well! I can’t even put my finger on how they did it… Perhaps they really did get a horse to do all of the stunts or perhaps they got away with realistic dummies due to the many quick-edited shots. Anyway. I almost don’t want to know because it was so convincing.
The accident leaves Grace and her horse Pilgrim physically and mentally injured so Grace’s mum (Kristin Scott Thomas) takes them to a ‘horse whisperer’ called Tom Booker (Robert Redford) in order to help them both recover.
The thing that stood out for me was the acuracy in the training techniques. The Horse Whisperer is based on a training system called Natural Horsemanship where the rider asks the horse for submission, acceptance and softness.
Obviously the reactions of the horse are not always particularly realistic, nor would the lack of time spent on Pilgrim result in the horse becoming totally cured. However, I think we are all grown up to accept that this is a film that has certainly taken the horse’s reactions into consideration, without it becoming an instructional video of how to train your horse.
The epic music is as incredible as Titanic and Black Beauty. I blame the music for my constant blubbering throughout the entire film…
I remember when I last watched this and I felt like there wasn’t enough of the horse’s story in it. However, this was about ten or so years ago and I am rather thankful that a parallel storyline of how humans interact and accept each other was weaved throughout. The love story is strong and does not take from the overall story of the horse’s journey through recovery.
You kind of get to know how cruelly we treat each other, how trauma affects people differently and how we listen and communicate with each other through the recovery of the horse. It’s really quite deep.
The end of the story is unexpected… But I can’t decide if it was in a good way or not. Everything is concluded except for the love story which I was eager to know more about.
After watching this I wanted to buy a ranch in Southern America so badly! Get a horse and go out riding for days. It made horseriding look incredibly natural – which I suppose it isn’t really – with big western saddles, loose reins and calm canters over the endless hills. A fantastically jolting contrast between the uncontained farm land and the claustrophobic New York City show within the film.
A fantastic watch for any horse lover or lover of deep emotion-driven films. I enjoyed the culture of the farm in the south.
Robert Redford has style! So keep an eye out for the use of shadows and colour.
A film that is very well done.
Jodie’s rating: 8.5/10