Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Movie review: Buck

Earlier this summer, we saw the documentary film Buck.

It follows a horse training expert (Buck) as he travels the country giving three-day workshops. In his workshops, he teaches the horse owners just as much about themselves as he does about their horses.

It is a terrific film, because it is a portrait of a person: a person with a history, relationships, hopes, a future. It got me thinking - you could make a film about anyone. We all have our stories, past experiences, personality quirks, and choices we've made in life that have contributed to the living, breathing people we have become.

Buck spends the better part of each year traveling alone, although his teenage daughter has begun to accompany him during her summer break. (These scenes are a particularly lovely depiction of a parent-child relationship.) Very introverted in his younger days, he has been somewhat alone even when among other people. All of this time spent alone gives him insights into the inner monologues of horses as well as people. There is an interesting section of the film where he sees straight into one woman in particular, and delivers her the tough-love words she so desperately needs to hear. Buck is so gentle, though, because he practices empathy. Maybe that's the way in which this film is something of a gift: as an exploration of an empathy-driven life.

There certainly are reasons why Buck is the way he is. We learn of his childhood, so full of fear and sadness. He knows how a horse feels when it is trained by whips, chains, and deprivation, and he knows how such a horse learns to think. Those are not his methods. His methods meet each horse where it is in that moment and work with its natural instincts. He was the advisor for the film "The Horse Whisperer," and we get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, but this is not a film about a glamorous life. It's more of a peaceful, yet driven, life. A respect-filled life. Buck both gives and receives respect. Is this rare in movies? It shouldn't be, but I think it is. That, in and of itself, is interesting.

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