Buck (2011) on Netflix, Amazon Instant, iTunes
The Basics: A documentary about real-life horse whisperer Buck Brannaman
If You Liked: Blackfish and Grizzly Man
The Nugget: A talented trainer channels the pain from his past into a gentle approach to horsemanship.
Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer may have faded from collective memory, but Buck Brannaman deserves to linger on. The main inspiration for both the 1995 Nicholas Evans novel and the 1998 film it inspired, Brannaman was abused as a child by his violent father, which helps explain why he has such an empathy for horses (“When something is scared for its life, I understand that,” he says). Horse folks will no doubt marvel at his skill and grace in the saddle as he crisscrosses rural America, giving training clinics. But even viewers who’ve never set foot in a barn will be moved by the calm, intuitive spirit who managed to emerge from his bleak childhood. With its careful balance of laconic understatement, self-deprecating humor, and a humble regard for man’s most mysterious four-legged friend, Buck makes for a modern-day cowboy fairy tale.
Photo credit: © Everett Collection