The Horse Whisperer is a movie by Robert Redford. He stars in the movie and his stamp is in every scene. A long movie of 2 hours and 51 minutes, it seems he is deliberately slowing us down, having us move at a quieter pace, a slower pace. From this movie you can tell how much Redford loves the land. He took the time to show the beautiful patchwork fields of the Midwest through aerial shots. He showed the winding curve of roads up mountain passes, and he showed the beautiful mountains of beloved Montana. Small details, such as bales of hay being newly formed, the community farm gatherings for music and dance, were frequent.
Initially, the movie did a good job of establishing a sense of foreboding when Grace, the young girl in the movie, experiences a horrendous accident while riding horses with her best friend on a winter morning. It is truly one of the most horrendous and gut-wrenching accidents I have seen in a film.
Her mother Annie (Kristen Scott-Thomas) is a workaholic and distant from her husband, who clearly loves Annie and his daughter and wants the best for them. Annie is headstrong and won’t take no for an answer. She is very controlling and demanding. When Tom (Robert Redford), who has a knack with problem horses, refuses to visit her to look at Grace’s horse Pilgrim, she takes matters into her own hands and drives across the country with Grace and the horse, in an attempt to heal both of them and herself in the process. They leave the dad behind and arrive at the ranch. Tom is quickly intrigued with Pilgrim and agrees to work with them.
Tom’s virtue is patience. In fact the whole film seems to be an ode to patience. He waits an entire day to have the horse approach him. The horse seems to be suffering from posttraumatic stress from the accident, and Grace is clearly depressed and sad. Grace generally is convincing, although there is one scene with her mother, which is supposed to be a cathartic joining for them, which is not convincing whatsoever. Annie of course falls in love with Tom; Tom falls in love with her. This is also not convincing. Aside from Annie being pretty and perhaps Tom’s willingness to look through the guarded and defensive woman to find her scared little girl inside, I can’t see any other reasons for him to fall in love with her. And Annie, unable to love the man who loves her so deeply, finds escape in infatuation with Tom. Their love is never really consummated except in an exquisite dance floor meeting, done slowly in close up, a dance so filled with sexual tension that I’m surprised Annie’s husband never noticed it passed between them.
The movie is entertaining, not in an action-packed sense, but in the sense that you wonder: How is this horse going to heal? How is Grace going to heal from this tragedy? And more importantly, will anything break through Annie’s tough exterior?