Many patrons eagerly await the arrival of the newest additions to our library's ever-growing film collection. For some, it becomes a challenge of sorts to "get on the hold list" the moment a new DVD or Blu-Ray hits our shelves. More often than not, though, this enthusiasm is reserved for the big-budget, big-name blockbuster films that Hollywood is known for.
Lucky for us, Cecil County Public Library appeals to a broad range of viewer interests. We offer many lesser-known indie films that frequently arrive without much fuss and may go overlooked by the general movie-loving population. One such gem is "Buck," the true-life account of Dan "Buck" Brannaman, whose amazing prowess with animals inspired Nicholas Evans' "The Horse Whisperer" and the movie by the same title.
Before I go any further, let me establish that you do not have to be a horse person to enjoy this film. There is something universally appealing about the American West, gritty cowboys, breathtaking vistas and the human heart that transcends any amount of equine knowledge (or the lack thereof, in my case).
By the time he was 4, Buck Brannaman was a professional trick roper and the youngest member of the show circuit. Behind the radiant smiles and rhinestone shirts, though, a young boy suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his father. Through a series of life-changing events, he left home as a young man and found solace in working with horses.
Having experienced a lot of pain in his personal life, Buck is especially tuned into the sensitive nature of horses and seems to have an almost otherworldly sense when it comes to handling even the most high-spirited colt. He realized that all too often horses were misunderstood and unjustly punished, so he began touring the United States giving seminars to educate horse owners in a new way.
The story of Buck Brannaman is pieced together through seminar footage and interviews with childhood friends, students, family members and "Horse Whisperer" director Robert Redford. We follow Buck on the road where he spends nine months every year travelling from state to state, helping "horses with people problems." He uses great metaphors in his teachings that make sense to even a non-rider. Several times in the movie he asserts that a horse's attitude is a reflection of its handler and that if you can master that relationship, then it will carry over into other aspects of your life: how you raise your kids, speak to peers, and handle adversity.
Buck exudes understated grace beneath a rawhide tough exterior. There is something very appealing about the unassuming, soft-spoken man that makes his ability to step quietly into a corral with a 2000-lb writhing, jumping, frightened bundle of muscle and sharp hooves all the more amazing. Even more amazing is watching the animal's transformation under his watchful eye and gentle words.
As documentaries go, "Buck" is as entertaining as it is educational. There are laugh-out-loud moments, raw emotion and wonderful insight into the human spirit. The scenery as he crisscrosses the country is remarkable, as is his fluidity as a rider. The film is thought-provoking and would be appealing to animal lovers, adventure-seekers and people who like to see the underdog win. This movie is one not to miss.
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin