Movie Review

The Horse Whisperer

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a disturbing accident scene

Reviewed by: Joyce Books
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Romantic Drama
Length:
168 min.

Starring: Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Neill, Scarlett Johansson, Dianne Wiest / Director: Robert Redford / Released by: Touchstone Pictures

Robert Redford comes through once again (in his first directorial and starring role) in the terrific story, “The Horse Whisperer”. Two teens are out for an early-morning horseback ride in snowy country when one horse loses traction and causes a devastating accident. Both girls and horses land on a logging road with an approaching truck. One girl is tragically killed and the other, Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson) is forced to live with the loss of part of one leg. Grace’s horse is so badly wounded that it should be mercifully put down, but Grace’s mother Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas) believes the horse should be kept alive. Needless to say, both Grace and the horse (Pilgrim) not only have physical wounds to heal; but emotional ones as well.

Annie is an aggressive editor of a magazine who devotes too much time to her profession, causing both her husband and daughter to be sacrificed in the name of work. In search of a way to have Grace’s horse, Pilgrim, become well again, Annie researches and learns about “horse whisperers.” With daughter and horse in tow, she journeys to Montana to see if Pilgrim can once again become the stately animal she was before the tragic accident.

Enter Tom Booker (Robert Redford), the horse whisperer. Despite Annie’s marital status, Tom and Annie begin an emotional entanglement during the time when Pilgrim and Annie’s daughter begin to heal from past wounds. Despite the adulterous affair described in the book, this film version thankfully does stand on some moral ground. Even though Tom and Annie begin to realize their love for one another, they are convinced it is not in the best interest for the sake of Annie’s husband and daughter (a refreshing moral ring often lacking today).

This nearly 3-hour long film is truly stunning with only some rare “lagging” scenes. There were no bed scenes and only 2 profanities. Be sure to pack some tissues in your pockets; this heart-wrenching story is sure to produce some tears. The scenery is fantastic, beautiful beyond words, and the acting is good. Without a doubt, “The Horse Whisperer” is one of the best films of 1998. Beware of some difficult situations, however. The horse accident is quite upsetting. Also, there is a kissing scene involving a single man and a married woman. Overall—highly recommended for teens to adult.

Year of Release—1998

Viewer Comments
RECOMMENDED!!! How does a christian react when tragedy strikes? How does a christian deal with marital and relational confusion? Though the characters in this movie are not christians, “The Horse Whisperer” takes the christian viewer to the center of some of life’s most difficult issues. The Horse Whisperer is an excellent must see movie. Most Hollywood films are doing well to create even one deep, well thought out meaningful character role in a film.

“The Horse Whisperer” explores THREE lives in its necessary almost 3 hour length. And the viewer is glad for the time that is used. The scenery is superb, the directing and acting first rate, the characters develop and reveal themselves with time, the plot grows and grows—nothing less than the complete contemplation of the personal struggles in each life is revealed and concluded before the credits are allowed to drift down.

“The Horse Whisperer” takes you to a place you will remember, both for its setting and the people who dwell there. Very much to Robert Redford’s credit, though this movie could have gone the immoral way of most Hollywood productions, it refuses to take the easy way out. I think this movie should inspire christians to persevere in more than one area of life. The material is heavy and sometimes hard to watch, but it’s the true to life type of issues that both adults and teens should face, not avoid.
—Todd Adams, age 30
The movie was shown here in the Philippines without fanfare. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a secular movie with christian tones. One part I felt is significant is when annie, grace and the booker family was about to take their meal, the booker gave grace before meal. I also loved the movie for its true human touch; it shows weakness in humanity and how they overcome it. And best of all the scenery is so fantastic which I can only say there is a God. Except for the accident scene this movie is truly a refreshing movie.
—Johansen DySeng, age 33
The scenery was great but in order for the emotionally affair to be acceptable the women should have been a widow. One thing I find surprising are the parallels that the reviewers above draw between this and the work of Jesus of Nazareth. Some of the parallels are plausible but when did Hollywood become sympathetic to the Christian faith? If an author or a person has shown you time and time again to be in opposition to a certain philosophy or idea then any parallel or support inferred in their communication would have to be seen as purely coincidental.

I’d have to see a lot more than some vague inferences out of Hollywood before I’d even consider that any support, and not scorn, of the Christian faith was intended to be inferred by us.
—Bob, age 34
This movie was a breath of fresh air. In “People” magazine it was stated that Robert Redford was from a Luthern background. That confirmed for me that underneath this movie, some of his upbringing came forth. However, we should intercede for him that he will fully return to his roots. For such a long movie, I could not believe that I never left my seat! I was captivated with the direction of the movie and the awesome scenery.

I truly felt as if I had had a vacation when I left the theater. All in all, I was blessed by this movie. In fact, I would contemplate purchasing this movie—just for the scenery alone. If this movie does not receive Academy Award nominations, I will be surprised.
—Nora
My husband and I went to see this movie and we, too agree with the review! This was a great movie! I agree with the review that it is best for teens and adults because of the issues and the accident scene. But for those old enough to discuss and understand the issues, it was fine. A few points we’d like to add: Yes, the accident at the beginning was tragic and violent BUT without seeing and FEELING the intensity of the situation, how could we relate to what Grace and Pilgrim were going through??

That was the basis of the movie. As far as language, we were very pleased with this movie… honestly, I was so engrossed in the story that I only remember 1 or 2 instances of unacceptable language… I’ve heard worse in DISNEY CHILDREN’S CARTOONS!!

As far as the adultery, maybe my husband and I watched from a different perspective than some of the other viewers who posted comments. We were VERY PLEASANTLY SURPRISED at the outcome of this relationship. We expected Tom and Annie end up in bed and Annie distroying her marriage “as usual” for Hollywood. Our discussion was that the Bible says we WILL BE tempted by our own lusts.

But as Christians, (actually as humans with a moral conscience and ability to choose right or wrong), we are to choose to OVERCOME THE TEMPTATION and GOD WILL PROVIDE A WAY TO OVERCOME THE TEMPTATION. Yes, they were tempted, they gave in to some extent (the kiss and the dance) but when it came down to the point of no return, they made the right choice. Robert Redfod portrayed “Tom” as a real red-blooded male with desires but also as a gentlemen with the self-control to stop (even after going a step beyond the acceptable limits for Christians).

Annie and her husband represented probably thousands of couples (Christian and not) that for various reasons are unhappy and falling out of love. BUT when they reached the final point they decided to admit their problems, be honest about their feelings and confront and deal with them rather than just walking away in a divorce. No she didn’t instantly fall back in love with her husband and live happily ever after, and yes, she still had feelings for Tom, but this was REALITY! (Talk to couples who have gone through adultery and survived it).

BUT THEY TOOK THE FIRST STEPS IN HEALING THEIR MARRIAGE!! Pain and tears and time are NECESSARY. Her husband loved her enough to give her the time and to fight for the marriage rather than just head for a lawyer!! She was willing to drive away from the WRONG love she found and give her marriage a second chance. ! I just wish more men and women—especially Christians!—would follow their example and work through their marital problems like God desires us to rather than bailing out so easily.

Also, it was refreshing to see the idea that two people can be very attracted to each other with very strong passion but choose to ABSTAIN rather than “just practice safe sex and hope you don’t get caught”! There’s a good lesson for teenagers! I too would have liked to see more emphasis on the work with Pilgrim… but the scenery was wonderful and gave us a longing for a simpler way of life portrayed in the movie… God wasn’t mentioned but His creation speaks for itself in this movie. And the lasting INNER PEACE towards life the ranchers had ususally is found only by those who have made peace with their God!!

Let’s asssume the best instead of the worse… This movie was realistic in all issues. Those who condemn it so strongly should try to remember that “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” As humans we all have probably been tempted like Tom and Annie. (Jesus said even that “second look” is a sin!) I applaud Robert Redford as Director and whoever else was involved for making a realistic, beautiful movie!! What a wonderful change of pace for Hollywood! This was worth the full evening price of the tickets.
—Kim G., 32 years old
I enjoyed the movie and was extremely glad to see a movie offer a solution to an emotional affair other than jumping in to bed. For the mother to return to her husband, when she was romantically attracted to the horse trainer, was not the easy way, but it was the right thing to do. I understand the book had quite a different take. Praise should go to Robert Redford for changing the ending. There is also a wonderful spiritual picture in the movie when Tom Booker chases the horse into the field and waits patiently for the horse to come to him. I picture our heavenly father waiting for us as we run away from time to time. He wants to train us for our intented purpose to glorify him but we so often run away because of fears or because we want to run wild and do our own thing. But God waits for us to return. This would be a good video scene to use as an illustration in a Bible Study.
—John Walters, age 47
Yes… the people slipped and were not perfect in this movie… but I saw some very redeeming qualities to be admired in the film. One… the extreme patience shown by Redford for healing the horse and the little girl. He listened and showed patient caring for the animal and the little girl. The second was the sacrifices made by the mother… once to take daughter and horse to be healed and to lose the job she loved in order to do so. The second sacrifice when she left a person and a place she had grown to care about… all to protect her daughter and her marriage.
—Gary Knox
This movie is one of the most beautiful movies made recently. It deals with real life issues of the heart and of family. The character portrayed by Robert Redford does a good, but realistic job of resisting the “vibes” of an out of love and overworked woman city editor. It is nice to see a man resisting passions in a gentlemanly manor. His fatal slip was realistic. I believe your patrons reviews (except young Kara Johnson, age 20 who provides a zeleous distortion) have done justice to this secular but gentle and loving movie.

It is unfortunate that some might see a few minutes in a several hour movie as a “love affair” in its entirety. In fact, the movie is made up mostly of much resistance to our frail human emotions and passions. Go see it. If you are lucky enough to not be one who has doubts in mid marriage, you should at least see this to observe the majority of others who struggle to re-find love.
—James Laubler
I observed several profanities and the Lords name in vain at least 4 times. The kissing scene was a very passionate kissing scene. What about the sensuous dancing? I do appreciate christian movie reviews, I think they are very valuable. I did expect completeness and truth, here I was dissapointed.
—Louann Newton, age 43
I thought this was a beautifully filmed movie and I liked the characters and what they experienced. It may be my favorite Robert Redford movie. However, the horse accident scene at the beginning was very traumatic for me to watch, it made me cry… and I am glad my children weren’t with me at that time.
—Stephanie Hanson, age 40
I am disappointed at the amount of “positive” responses I read on this bulletin board from viewers of movies like this one and “Titanic.” Let’s see; “Titantic” has a couple of 20 year olds who know each other 2 days, have sex, and get drunk at a ship party, show great disrespect toward parents and others, even “giving the finger” to someone (as if that ever happened in 1912). I read 9 out of 10 replies on a Christian feedback board that gush about how great that movie was. Now the “Horse Whisperer.”

An emotional affair is not shown being acted upon, but adultery is their wish, and the message that is sent is “how rotten it is that my husband is a good man and I can’t get it on with this rugged, good looking rancher.” An extended kiss, a very sexual dance together, longing looks, none of these things are ever repudiated or repented of. She drives away at the end not loving her good husband any more than she did when the movie began, and you know that in “Horse Whisperer Part 2,” she will turn the trailer around in Great Falls and head back to the bed of Robert Redford. Where are the high standards? Where are the believers who stand up against these trends?
—Mark M.
I was very disappointed when I went to see “Horse Whisperer.” I read in a horse magazine that Redford had done a lot of research to keep the horse training real-to-life, but there was very little about the horse training in the movie. It was basically a movie about a daughter who had an accident on a horse, and when she and her mother go to get help for the horse, the mother has an affair with the rancher helping them. Their was hardly enough horse in it to make it a “horse movie.”

Even more disappointing was the mother’s affair with the rancher (Redford). She has a loving husband, but she leaves and gets involved with another guy. The lack of morals was very disturbing to me. Even after her husband drops everything and comes to visit them at the ranch, she continues the immoral relationship with the rancher.

I was glad that she finally decided to go home to her husband, but I didn’t feel that it was satisfactorally resolved. She continues to the end saying how she loves the rancher, and even when she does go back to her husband, she doesn’t admit that she really loves her husband. All in all, I was VERY disappointed.
—Kara Johnson, age 20
Yesterday my husband and I took in the film and were glad we did. It was good to see a film that dealt with real issues. Although the parts of intimacy between the whisperer and the city gal was disturbing—it really happens. We were pleased with the choices each of these characters made in the end. I WAS quite impressed with the acting of the little boys, especially the older one (real name is Ty Hillman). In today’s (May 31) Denver Post Sunday paper a full page spread featured Ty.

In the scene showing the boys in a minor fight, Ty’s character was suppose to say a four-letter cuss word for human waste. “I had to tell them that my mother doesn’t let me use that word.” he told the interviewer. “They changed it to “You little turd.” Respect is shown to those who request it. Bravo to the filmakers who respected the wishes of a 12 year old boy, who incidently (according to the article) lives in a family very similair to his “film family.
—CKG
After viewing this excellent movie—I can’t help but be reminded of how God will strip away all hurt, pain and sin in our lives in order to rebuild us. The healing that fills our lives—healing that is brought about by love and patience. If this is what man can accomplish—How much more God is able to do. I especially liked the ending, the choices that were made.
—Ruthann Weathersby, age 58
Beautiful scenery, great soundtrack, fair plot. No sex, no violence (outside of the horse accident), and no swearing. OK for a 5 year old, although I doubt they would understand it that young. Two editing mistakes I noticed… When Grace is given the keys to the pick-up truck by Tom Booker we see a shotgun in the rack in the window of the pick-up. However, that rack is empty when she starts up the truck and drives it. Also, what was the point of showing Annie reading a book in bed just prior to her going to sleep? It had no relevence to any other part of the movie.

The scenery and the music are worth the price of admission. It makes you want to live in the high country and become a cowboy. The even temperament and gentlemanly nature of the men in this film make a refreshing change of pace. Everyone in the film seems happy, and not much gets under their skin. This is nice to see, for a change.

The attitude Grace displays towards the beginning of the movie, and the disrespect for her parents bothered me. Is this an example we need to show our children of how to act towards their parents? I think not. However, parenting is really not the main issue of this movie. I give it 4 stars out of 5.
—Phillip Woeckener
We saw this movie yesterday and were thrilled to see such a good film in the midst of all the horrer, guns, sex, etc. etc. etc. We need more like this one! Somehow, we should get the message to Mr. Redford that he has made a wonderful film and consistently encourage those who make films that build up, not tear down.
—Ann Carroll
My husband and I saw this movie and also thought it was highly rated. I agree with your rating and comments.
—Boyd and Linda Costilow, age 50's
I enjoyed the movie and plan to see it again. In the movie Tom Booker (Robert Redford) tells Annie’s daughter that animals are much quicker to forgive and that Pilgrim ended up getting so hurt because he loved her and was trying to protect her. That is the way the Lord is. He does his best to protect us and we end up scared because things just didn’t turn out the way “we” had planned, but, He continues to love us unconditionally.

I was glad that Annie decided to stay with her husband and daughter. So many homes are destroyed today because one or both partners are no longer “in love.” This woman when given the choice by her husband decided to stay in the marriage. The scenery was beautiful. The mountains and the snow just let you see more of God’s glory. I really enjoyed this movie and I really recommend it.
—Teri Walker, age 44