Buck Brannaman works his horse whisperer magic.
BUCK (Cindy Meehl). 89 minutes. Opens Friday (October 28). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
Buck Brannaman has an amazing talent for understanding horses. He spends two-thirds of the year driving around the United States conducting four-day clinics designed to help people learn to work with their horses rather than demand the animals act against their own instincts.
It's about reaching out to the horse, he believes, and letting it know it's okay to trust the person holding the reins. A scared animal will only lash out.
As we see in Cindy Meehl's terrific documentary Buck, the rugged, plain-spoken Brannaman comes by his knowledge the hard way. As a boy in Montana, he and his brother were removed from the care of their violent, alcoholic father and rehabilitated by compassionate foster parents.
That history informs every moment in Meehl's profile, which shows Brannaman smoothing out the relationships between owners and horses. He'll talk about his tragic past, but refuses to be defined by it - though it may be what drives him to try even harder to save a colt so badly unsocialized that it charges any human in sight.
Meehl illustrates her subject's kindness and compassion through interviews with family, friends and illustrious colleagues like Robert Redford, who hired the trainer as a technical adviser on The Horse Whisperer - a film inspired in part by Buck's own story. But Brannaman's spirit comes through best in the footage of him working with the animals. It's enough to break your heart, even as it heals his own.