Monday Doc Night: BUCK @ The Flicks 1 + 2
“I’m helping horses with people problems.” – Buck Brannaman
An examination of the life of acclaimed ‘horse whisperer’ Buck Brannaman, who recovered from years of child abuse to become a well-known expert in the interactions between horses and people.
If you love horses, Buck will not buck you. If you don’t love them, this documentary will make you love Buck Brannaman, the inspiration for the novel The Horse Whisperer and technical adviser to Robert Redford on the film of the same name.
Interestingly enough, you don’t see him whisper; he just snaps and waves a couple of red flags to convince the animal he cares about them. His results, even with the feistiest and most deadly horses, are remarkably successful. Buck is a soft song of praise to a wrangler psychologist whose gift with horses defies analysis, so unassuming is he, so gentle that he appears not to be working at all.
His interaction with humans is just as successful with clinics all over the West to show owners and trainers how to tame the liveliest colts. His loving relationship with his wife and daughter, who performs at rodeos with him, is a testimony to his belief that humans are key to the happiness of the animals.
His no nonsense advice is nowhere more effective than when he tells a rancher about the effect of her neuroses on the troubled horse he is attending to. Tough love.
When Buck asks, “Why let an animal live in fear?” it is apparent Buck has a connection with horses that goes beyond breaking them for riding. When he describes how a horse naturally fears a human on his back in the same way one jumped by a lion does, the lesson about empathy is clear.
Buck is a cowboy with a remarkably wry sense of humor and self-effacing pride. His tough love melts into a universal love that straddles the beast and human worlds.
The back story about his abuse by his father adds to his credibility and mitigates the otherwise thin deconstruiction of his persona. While I am frustrated because of the film’s unwillingness to probe deeper into his talent and his psyche, what you get is what you get: a man gifted with horses—and humans.
(88 mins, documentary)