In her first
The images — beautiful and evocative — are culled from more than 300 hours of footage, much of it shot over two years by cinematographers Guy Mossman (
The film opens with a shot of horses running free, manes flying in the wind, dust kicking up in their wake, an endless stretch of sky overhead. It is a smart setup that underscores the beauty and power of the animal — at the same time reminding us that the very act of owning and riding a horse takes away that freedom. Then the camera shifts to Brannaman, who is introduced without a word. Long before you see his face, you get a measure of the man — solitary; a steady stride that is confident without being cocky; the cowboy hat, the chaps, the boots and the rest worn for utility, not style.
Most of the voices in the documentary, other than Brannaman's, are the people whose lives he has touched. They are an eclectic mix — some competing and showing thoroughbreds, others raising and refining working cattle horses, some riding for pleasure, nearly all coming into his workshops thinking there is little he can teach them. And then he does.
He's a natural in the training ring, as much raconteur as resource. As he walks his classes through what a rider is actually asking of the horse — from the halter on his head to the stranger climbing on his back — you come to understand the core of his philosophy, that horses are a mirror of the person riding them. Though he suggests anyone can learn his techniques, just watching him work with a horse, it's hard not to believe there is a mystical connection that no workshop can pass along.
'Buck' -- 3 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: PG (for thematic elements, mild language and an injury)