The Horse Whisperer
Release Year: 1998
Director: Robert Redford
Writers: Eric Roth (screenplay), Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), Nicholas Evans (based on his 1995 novel The Horse Whisperer)
Starring: Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Neill, Dianne Wiest, Chris Cooper, Cherry Jones, Ty Hillman, Kate Bosworth, Jeanette Nolan
Rating: Nominated for 1 Oscar: Best Original Song (“A Soft Place to Fall”). Nominated for 2 Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director.
When a young girl survives a horrible riding accident she and her horse are both badly hurt and severely traumatized. As a last result, she enlists the help of a cattle rancher in Montana with a unique gift for training horses, a so-called horse whisperer.
The story starts in a snow covered, idyllic upper state New York. Grace (Scarlett Johansson) and her best friend (Kate Bosworth in her screen début) go riding together. A hoof in the wrong place and a truck storming down a woodland road are the ingredients in a horrifying accident rendered on screen with great effect. The friend i killed, Grace looses a leg, and her beloved horse Pilgrim is beyond recognition. In desperation to save her daughter, Annie pressures the horse whisperer Tom booker (Robert Redford) to help. Mother and daughter settle in on his family’s beautiful cattle ranch in Montana and soon find themselves transformed. Robert Redford not only directed but also cast himself in a role that fits him perfectly. He radiates a sense of calm and belonging in his environment, the only complaint about his character is that he doesn’t show up for the first 45 minutes of the film. Both Redford and Thomas as the mother are good, but their romance never feels natural and takes focus from the much more interesting story of Grace and Pilgrim. Considering the title there is precious little horse whispering going on for large parts of the film. But the Montana landscape is breathtaking and Booker’s family are charming, his brother being played by Chris Cooper (American Beauty, 1999) and his sister-in-law by a great Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway, 1994), who has relatively little screen time but one of the best characters of the film. A interesting story about a girl and her horse finding themselves again that is derailed slightly by a romance that makes the film longer necessary. Sweet and beautiful to look at, this is recommended to fans of slow-burning romances in gorgeous landscapes.
Robert Redford acquired the rights for Nicholas Evans’s novel before it was even published.
Picture Copyright: Touchstone Pictures