Katy McLaughlin (Alison Lohman) has been sent by her financially strapped parents to a prestigious private school on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. Her father, Rob (Tim McGraw), runs the ranch he inherited from his dad in the state's remote mountain region. He dreams of sending Katy to college whereas he wants his son, Howard (Ryan Kwanten), to stay and work with him. His wife Nell (Maria Bello) wonders whether her husband is too rigid in his ideas about what is best for their children. A gardener, she tends to go with the flow and to wait for the seeds to bloom in their own way and in their own time.

When she comes home for a break, Katy tries to avoid telling her parents that she has not applied herself in school. She just doesn't believe that she needs to go to college since horses and ranching are what make her soul sing. Her first morning back, she takes one of the horses out for an early morning run. The horse is spooked by a mountain lion, and she is thrown. Just when it looks like the dangerous animal will attack her, a beautiful wild black mustang chases it away. Katy falls in love with the mustang and is determined to bring her to the ranch to safety. But her father says he can't risk having a wild horse among the quarter horses they are raising. Their ranch is barely breaking even. Katy is shocked to learn that Rob has entertained the idea of selling their land to one of the developers who would divide it into subdivisions and build houses for rich people.

One day Katy finds the mustang again and chases her into her father's herd. The herd stampedes, but her father manages to lasso the horse and bring it back to the ranch, telling their two ranch hands that he can sell her to the rodeo. But Katy names her Flicka which means "beautiful young girl" in Swedish, and against her father's orders, she sneaks out at night to the corral and tries to calm Flicka down and familiarize the wild animal with her body and movements. She makes some real progress, but after the horse throws her, Rob calls the rodeo man, who is thrilled to get this spirited black horse for the wild horse race event.

Flicka is a fine screen adaptation of Mary O'Hara's popular novel My Friend Flicka. Screenplay writers Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner have made the lead character a teenage girl, rather than a boy as in the two other movies based on the classic tale. The director is Michael Mayer, who was at the helm of A Home At the End of the World, an emotionally resonant 2004 movie about an extraordinary young man who sees the world as a safe and friendly place. That movie as well as this one zeroes in on the family dynamics that provide us with chances to become all we were meant to be.

The father and daughter clash in Flicka stems from the fact that Katy and her dad are both strong-willed individuals who like doing things their own way. When Katy assumes the challenge of working with Flicka, she is actually working on her own wildness and yearning for freedom. Forced to re-do an exam paper that she left blank at school, she expresses her love of mustangs as wild creatures who remind us of the primal energies and possibilities of the West. The finale of this engrossing drama brings Katy, her father, and Flicka together in a family crisis that reveals new possibilities for them all.

Alison Lohman shines in her strong and credible portrait of Katy, and Tim McGraw is just right as her authoritarian father whose heart leads him down a new path.

Special DVD features include Tim McGraw's "My Little Girl" music video, three deleted scenes, the making of the featurette, bloopers, and a gag reel.