Published Oct 27, 2011In premise, fashion designer Cindy Meehl's debut documentary, Buck, sounds like insular hokum, following around real life horse whisperer Buck Brannaman throughout the United States as he demonstrates his method of Natural Horsemanship (or compassionate horse training) to wide-eyed enthusiasts. And while this journey propels the superficial narrative forward, it's the universality of its core ideology and the deeply insightful, symbolic human centre of Brannaman's methods and motivations that make this story appeal beyond the horsy crowd.
Starting out on technicalities, with Buck quickly taming and working in tandem with wild colts, much to the awe of spectators, he details his methods of co-operative training and working with a horse's natural movements rather than forcing traditionalist, contradicting actions. It's quite impressive to witness him take a seemingly wild, irrepressible animal and have it acquiesce within mere minutes.
Gradually, this exceedingly personal documentary chips away at Brannaman's psychological motivations and deeper beliefs about his life path, revealing his belief that a horse's behaviour is directly proportional to the state of its owner, something mirrored by his own turbulent upbringing.
Buck was a victim of abuse from an oppressive, alcoholic father, which resultantly made him introverted, fearful of men and prone to overcompensate, perfecting and obsessing over everything tackled.
Beyond the obvious message of projecting his feelings towards abuse onto the act of "breaking" a horse, redefining how people perceive their relationship with their animal, Meehl's documentary assesses the dark roots of sagacity and the oft unpleasant, but sincere, motivations of those that are unthinkably determined and passionate.
It would be difficult to argue that Buck isn't a thoughtfully constructed, well-balanced and intelligently edited film with a clear vision. By the time it reveals that, on occasion, horses (and people) can be too abused damaged to recover, you would be hard-pressed to find a viewer that didn't feel at least a tinge of empathy or compunction. (Films We Like)