Movie Review By Andrea Chase
At the beginning of "The Horse Whisperer" a family in crisis learns that their lives have been a lovely sham. The daughter, Grace, and her horse suffer an accident that traumatizes them both in body and mind.
In the aftermath, Grace, and her parents, Annie, played with with a nervous edge by Kristen Scott Thomas, and Robert, played by stalwart Sam Neil, realize they've been teetering on the edge of dysfunction with only good manners to keep them from falling into the abyss. They haven't really spoken to each other in years.
Grace tests parents and audience alike with an obnoxious persona that masks her pain. Unable to reach her daughter, Annie becomes obsessed with the horse, refusing to let it be put down, despite injuries and changes in its nature that has turned it wild and dangerous. Desperate, she puts everything else, even her cherished career, on hold.
In a desperate leap of faith, Annie takes horse and daughter from New York to a Montana ranch, hoping that Tom Booker played by director Robert Redford, a horse whisperer, who can commune with horses, can somehow save them all.
Good plan. Tom provides both the horse, and Grace, the firm hand and gentle touch that the vet and the doctor should have ordered, if only they'd known how. When Annie then falls hard for the gentle and enigmatic Tom, who can blame her?
Redford has made a film that's beautifully photographed and expertly put together. Naturally, we don't hear what the horse is telling Tom, but with precisely chosen shots, we, like the whisperer, can understand. The same with one of the most wildly romantic slow dances on film, burgeoning passion summed up with a hand tightening on a partner's waist.
If "The Horse Whisperer" sentimentalizes the hard, dirty work of ranch life, filming it with dappled sunlight and poetry, it also examines the importance of small moments. At the center, Redford, a romantic tour guide to the things in life that really matter, full of humor, charm, and infinite patience, just like his film. Fantasy, sure, not the horse whispering so much as the idea that there's a place, or a person, that can refresh our spirits and restore order to our lives. It's not reality, but it's a fine place to visit.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 5/15/98
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