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   THE HORSE WHISPERER (1998) 

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CAST
Robert Redford
Kristin Scott-Thomas
Scarlett Johansson
Sam Neill
Dianne Wiest
Chris Cooper
Cherry Jones
Ty Hillman
Kate Bosworth

DIRECTED BY
Robert Redford

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Time: 110 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Romance


I don't always agree with making movies from popular novels. Some books just don't lend well to onscreen adaptations. Getting inside characters heads is a lot more interesting on the page than it can be portrayed onscreen. I did not read The Horse Whisperer, but I think Redford deserves a lot of praise for what must have been a really hard novel to adapt. This is a quiet story of survival, love and healing. Subjects that are hard to convey believably to an audience regardless of the medium. He does a wonderful job. Not once does he take the common road or squeeze the tears from a scene. Though I cried at certain points throughout this film, I did not feel pushed to do so. He truly captured the pain and emotions of these characters without making them seem trite or silly. I cared about what happened to these people, even if I didn't always like them.

The plot is fairly simple: A woman (Annie), her teenage daughter (Grace) and their horse (Pilgrim) travel to Montana after a tragic accident that leaves Grace and Pilgrim mentally and physically traumatized. They seek the help of a man known as a horse whisperer to heal the horse and make him fit for society again. In the process Grace learns to accept her damaged body and get back on the horse of life – literally and figuratively. While this is going on her mother and the whisperer, Tom, fall in love. What else is there to do in the middle of Montana? I found that the love story was the weakest point of this film. Don't get me wrong, if I was in that situation, I'd fall for Tom too, but even though Annie didn't really love her husband anymore, that doesn't mean she'd fall for the first man she meets – even if he did look like Robert Redford. Tom is a literate cowboy who speaks simple truths, but is much more of a mystery than he lets on. Many of Redford's lines could have been hokey, but they impart a genuine honesty and truth about life that you just couldn't laugh about. In fact, many of them made me cry. Tom loves his life and that's just very hard to resist.


"I didn't know that it was right to love her. I just loved her."

Redford obviously loves Montana as well. He makes the scenary look very grand and awe inspiring, but also very real. This is a place where people live off the land because they want to – not because they're trapped there. Tom seduces her with the peace that comes from knowing exactly what your life is and where you call home. For Annie, a city person who's moved around all her life, it's a dream come true. Most of the main "action" of the film focuses on the relationship between Annie and Grace and Tom and Pilgrim. Both Tom and Annie have to break through barriers of fear and pain to try to erase the trauma of the accident. Scarlett Johansson is amazing as Grace. She captures all of the emotions of this young girl who's terrified no one will ever want her because her body is deformed. As viewers, you feel the frustration from both sides as these characters try to get past the accident. Redford's scenes with the horse are quiet, but no less powerful. I truly believed he understood and connected with this animal.

All this said, THE HORSE WHISPERER is not a movie for everyone. It is a slow film that needs time to show the viewer not only the magic of life on the ranch, but the time it takes to heal. If it had happened a week after they arrived it just wouldn't have been believable. Though the film was long, I never looked at my watch. I wanted to know what was going to happen to these people. And as much as I didn't buy the love story, I still kind of wanted them to be able to be together. They accepted and loved one another for who they were and that doesn't happen very often. But as we learn, life doesn't always go the way we want it to.



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