The Horse Whisperer Review

Image for The Horse Whisperer

Grace (Johansson) is disabled in a tragic accident on/off her horse. Sure that Grace's recover is dependent on that of her horse, mother Annie (Scott-Thomas) seeks out Horseman Tom Booker (redford) and he works his magic on more than the horse.


This is a nearly perfect picture - for your mum or gran. Since Robert Redford acquired the film rights to Nicholas Evans' tearjerker novel even before the book was finished, the screen adaptation has led a separate life. And by going for different emphases to those on the page, Redford has created a very sweet, very attractive, very sincere romantic yarn that is very much his own.

Tough chic New York magazine editor Annie (Scott-Thomas) and her low-key husband (Neill) are at their wits ends when their 14-year-old daughter Grace (Johansson) is disabled in an horrific riding accident. Believing the despairing girl's recovery is dependent on that of her injured horse, Pilgrim, Annie's researches into equine lore of whisperers (men with the gift of curing tomented horses) lead her to living legend, horseman Tom Booker (Redford). Annie hauls Grace and Pilgrim to the Booker ranch in Montana, where the miracle worker applies his gentle healing to horse and girl, inevitably touching mother's heart and soul as well over the difficult weeks that he works his magic.

Throughout his work Redford has addressed the American experience and the connection between an individual and his environment. Here, paralleling the romance, he constantly contrasts the dislocation and alienation of the cosmopolitan control freak gal from the East with the "gee, shucks" cowboy and the earthier souls bred in the wholesome air of Big Sky Country. Visually the film is stunning, from the nightmarish tragedy with which it opens, to a passionately poignant country dance in which Tom and Annie's desperate clinging to each other conveys everything they never say.

All of the roles are meticulously cast, although the classy Scott-Thomas is somewhat undermined by too much Ms. Cell Phone shtick, like clumsily preparing an inappropriately trendy little pasta dinner for a ravenous ranch family or imperiously conducting her magazine's business long-distance like some sitcom diva.

Like The Bridges Of Madison County, this film is much better than its drippy source novel. It, too, is the fastidiously rendered work of a craftsman, and a sob-inducing, beautifully old-fashioned affair (though with too little story to justify its length). But it's wildly unlikely to appeal to a young audience to whom the autumnal yearnings and self-denial of elders finding redemption and peace in sacrifice, selflessness and simple courtesy are invariably more irritating and ludicrous than moving.

This is the fastidiously rendered work of a craftsman, and a sob-inducing, beautifully old-fashioned affair which is bound to irritate the hell out of a younger audience.