REVIEW: Buck

Director: Cindy Meehl

Buck is a documentary about the life of Buck Brannanman – acclaimed horseman and real life inspiration for The Horse Whisperer. Buck’s existence for forty weeks out of the year is spent travelling around the United States from horse ranch to horse ranch dispensing wisdom about his alternative horse rearing practices. He’s acquired a rabid following, and this part ‘talking heads’, part ‘pure observational’ doco charts his life from traumatic beginnings to his profound and renowned nomadic existence.

Buck’s early life began with a caring and protective mother and an abusive, damaged, faux-showbiz father. He was forced to participate in roping competitions by day but became the focus for his father’s alcoholic rage in the evening, especially in the wake of his mother’s passing. Thankfully once the abuse was discovered he swiftly shipped Buck and his brother off to his exceptionally loving and nurturing foster family. His first hand experience with uncontrollable fear in youth seems to have made him more attuned to his instincts and the minutiae of the animals’ reactions.

From that moment he lived out a cowboy existence and was lead by some of the pioneers of his specific horse handling art to his current job. His philosophy is essentially ‘one-ness’ between the rider and their animal. Therefore he’s become an expert in reading the rider in the horse. He’s a Zen master whose innate understandings and lessons feel less like their relevant to training horses, and more about a holistic approach to life. There’s a powerful and poetic simplicity in displaying his presence and how it affects the animals. There are moments that Buck’s atop his mount and just by gesturing with his hips the horse strafes from side to side. And at other times young colts that are disobedient with their owners are almost immediately transfixed with his presence.

Buck’s family, friends and disciples that attend his workshops every year make up the majority of the interviewees. However actor/director/icon Robert Redford speaks about Buck’s involvement in the filming of The Horse Whisperer and despite the original novel being based loosely off him as a person, once he was hired as a technical advisor on the film his personality was so unique that Redford was positively influenced to align the character with Buck.

Real life trumps reel life in this fantastic, sweet, personal, human story about this true eccentric character.

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here.

Buck  is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray and VOD.