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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Horse Whisperer (1998)



Reviews and Comments

Robert Redford's adaptation of Nicholas Evans' book The Horse Whisperer is the first film which Redford both starred in and directed. It's commendable work; Redford fulfills both duties with elegance and flair. He has crafted a magnificent film here that isn't afraid to take the time it needs to flesh out the story. The opening moments are quiet and leisurely, lulling the viewer into a false sense of security. The first plot point occurs, and the rest of the film is about the healing of the family.

The horse whisperer is played by Robert Redford, who has a seemingly magical way with not just horses, but people as well. He works wonders, but almost introduces new problems when he becomes unduly attached to the leading lady, Kristin Scott Thomas.

The drama is convincing, and the performances sincere and heartfelt. Redford's direction is daringly confident, and its pacing is just what the story needs. As a visual bonus, almost all the film takes place outside in the West; the backgrounds are filled with gorgeous sweeping vista views.

The movie's one bothersome flaw, however, is that it doesn't explain much about what actual horse whispering is. In the movie, it just looks like voodoo. But horse whispering is a real training method, dating back to the 19th century. It's about using body language to communicate with horses the way they do with each other. The movie could have been greatly improved if it had hinted that the Redford character had mastered an actual craft, instead of just innately possessing some kind of mystical power.

But I must compliment Redford for other story decisions made to adapt the book for the screen. The movie's ending is an improvement on the book's soapy conclusion -- here, it serves the story's purpose much more effectively, granting its characters the strength to drive the events, rather than the other way around.