This real-life horse whisperer drama proceeds at a canter, rather than a gallop.
Prior to establishing a career as a horse expert, Brannaman endured a troubled childhood, suffering at the hands of an abusive father. This triumph over adversity underpins the narrative and forms the basis of Brannaman’s philosophy – that we should treat horses with the same sensitivity as any human loved one.
Director Cindy Meehl refrains from anything flashy, preferring to let her warm and engaging subject usher us through a combination of interviews, poignant archive footage and work sequences. Though serious about his day job, Brannaman is possessed of a dry wit and likeable self-deprecation. He’s also inscrutable enough to evoke mythical cowboy figures of Hollywood past.
In many ways, he is the anti-Grizzly Man. Whereas the subject of Werner Herzog’s bracing documentary appeared to manufacture his kinship with animals, Brannaman is clearly the real deal. His connection to the horses gives the film its emotional heft and adds weight to his brand of homespun philosophy ("The horse is a mirror to your soul").
His credentials are affirmed in a moving yet understated climactic sequence involving a wild, brain-damaged horse and its emotionally troubled owner.
Though it may prove too laid back for some tastes, Buck is an uplifting portrait of a resolute family man who has overcome a tough start to make a success of life on his own terms.
The real-life horse whisperer? Sounds intriguing. Mildly.
A slight, touching tale anchored by a compelling subject. Proceeds at a canter, rather than a gallop.
Singular in style and impressively reflective of its protagonist’s nature. Universal in theme, but may struggle to find a wide audience.