“Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.”
Sometimes, curled up in the evocative dark of a warm cinema, things on screen affect you more than they otherwise might. Whether it’s the shared experience of watching with a room full of strangers, or the mere fact that there aren’t phones and computers and conversations and whistling kettles and your turn at Draw Something vying for your attention with the television screen, I don’t know.
On Sunday, PleaseDon’tEatJo and I curled up in the warmth of the brilliant Prince Charles Cinema, hangover (her) and doughnuts (both) in hand to watch Buck.
In complete contrast to the godawful debacle that is Dark Shadows, which The Writer and I had the misfortune to sit through at last night’s press screening (mini review: don’t bother), Buck is utterly, toe-curlingly glorious.
It has plenty of the things that make a great film: shots of sweeping vistas in the American mid-West, stormclouds gathering in swirls over the trees; a stirring soundtrack of country instrumental, pulling at the heart; a positive arsenal of accolades from film festivals across the globe, including one from Sundance.
But it wasn’t any of that which left me tingling as we bobbed down the steps of the cinema and into the Sunday afternoon mass of tourists in Leicester Square.
It was the pure, quiet brilliance of the film’s lead, Buck Brannaman. A cowboy, trick roper and horse trainer from the mid-West, Brannaman and his incredible gift for communicating with horses were the inspiration for the novel and film The Horse Whisperer.
Yes, it’s a very horsey film, and probably speaks most powerful to very horsey people. But even those people who’ve never been near a horse let alone on board one would, I have absolutely no doubt, fall completely in love with the man. Because whilst it’s amazing to watch the sheer genius of Buck’s horsemanship and his apparently innate equestrian talent, it’s his approach to life that leaves an imprint.
Rather than relying on cruelty, or subjugation, or shouting and stamping his feet and demanding that others do what he wants, Buck’s dealings – both with the horses in the film, as well as the people – are based on a profound sense of respect for something other than oneself.
The film is a wonderful reminder that a barrelload of adversity isn’t an excuse to go through life feeling like you’re owed something; that you can’t take your suffered hardships out on other people; and that your words are better heard when they’re spoken softly.