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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Horse Whisperer
Directed by Robert Redford
Touchstone 05/98 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 -- disturbing accident scene
Robert Redford's exquisite screen adaptation of the bestselling 1995 novel by Nicholas Evans is one of the best films of the year. Fourteen-year-old Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson) and her beloved horse Pilgrim are involved in a terrible accident, in which her best friend is killed. Grace lives but loses her right leg in surgery and remains deeply depressed; Pilgrim is physically scarred and so spooked he is unapproachable.
Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas), Grace's mother, a driven New York based magazine editor, intuitively senses that her daughter's recovery will be linked to Pilgrim's. She refuses to have the horse put down. With the reluctant permission of her lawyer husband (Sam Neill), she decides to drive Grace and Pilgrim to Montana in hopes of convincing Tom Booker (Robert Redford), to help the horse. He turns out to be a patient, centered, and calm healer. While working wonders with Grace and Pilgrim, Tom falls in love with Annie.
Like Annie most of us live fast-lane lives, rushing from one thing to another, constantly in motion, skimming the surface without taking time to plumb the depths of our experiences, our relationships, and our unexpressed desires. The Horse Whisperer tutors us in the art of slowing down, being present, and quieting the heart. In a key scene, Booker sits in a field and waits patiently through an afternoon and evening until Pilgrim gives up his fear and walks over to him. Some things just can't be rushed. The message of this nearly three-hour movie is that the healing of severe wounds, tenacious grief, the ravages of guilt, and tattered relationships takes time.
Here is a compelling story that opens its arms to us in a warm embrace. The Horse Whisperer reminds us of the pleasures we often forget and neglect in our hectic lives the beauty of tenderness, the eroticism of touch, the glory and mystery of animals, the joys of truly inhabiting a place, and the riches of savoring the present moment with serenity.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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