Buck – Film Review

I’ve been around horses since I was a child. I’ve had a healthy level of respect, and to be honest, a little fear due to a solid kick I received at camp one year. It’s with this background that I began to watch the 2011 Sundance Film Festival favorite Buck. An  engaging documentary about Buck Brannaman by filmmaker Cindy Meehl, Brannaman, the inspiration for the 1998 Robert Redford vehicle The Horse Whisperer. What starts out as a fairly straightforward documentary about a man with a unique gift for communicating and training both people and their horses, turns into a fascinating character study not only of Brannaman, but also of a few horses as they deal with their “people problems.”

While Brannaman’s back story is dramatic and tragic, it helped shape him into what he is today, and in turn it helps him “fix” relationships between animal and man in clinics across the United States. While startling in its simplicity, his training essentially replaces the rod with respect, and those who go through his classes come out not only better horse-people, but better humans. A third-act incident with a troubled horse sneaks up on you, but is crucial to understand the dynamic between man and animal, and how no two situations are the same, even for the horse whisperer.

Its refreshing to see a film which was the inspiration for a higher-profile Hollywood release. While many may prefer the glossy fiction of Redford’s take, for my money this documentary is a great portrait of a fascinating man and the world he has chosen to make a living in, given his unique talents.

Buck is playing the Loft Cinema starting July 1, 3233 E. Speedway Boulevard. For showtimes visits LoftCinema.com 795-7777.

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About Herb Stratford

Arts and culture writer and film reviewer. Historic theatre restoration consultant. Artist and arts educator.
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