STANDING ON GUARD

for peace … for freedom … for Canada

Buck

Release Year:   2011
Studio:   IFC Films
Format:   Color, DVD, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Rated:   PG
# of Discs:   1
Running Time:   89 m + bonus
DVD Release Date:  October 4, 2011

Director:   Cindy Meehl
Actors:   Buck Brannaman
DVD Features:  Trailer, Deleted Scenes, Commentary with Filmmakers and Buck Brannaman, SDH subtitles
E: Top Picks Rating:   10/10

IFC Films Write-up: 
“Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.” So says Buck Brannaman, a true American cowboy and sage on horseback who travels the country for nine grueling months a year helping horses with people problems.

BUCK, a richly textured and visually stunning film, follows Brannaman from his abusive childhood to his phenomenally successful approach to horses. A real-life “horse-whisperer”, he eschews the violence of his upbringing and teaches people to communicate with their horses through leadership and sensitivity, not punishment.

Buck possesses near magical abilities as he dramatically transforms horses – and people – with his understanding, compassion and respect. In this film, the animal-human relationship becomes a metaphor for facing the daily challenges of life. A truly American story about an unsung hero, BUCK is about an ordinary man who has made an extraordinary life despite tremendous odds.

Rhiannon Benedict Review: 
Body, Mind and Soul. BUCK, IFC Films’ exceptional new documentary, will move you in more ways than you can even dream. A voyeuristic view into the life of Buck Brannaman, the real-life cowboy behind “The Horse Whisperer” book and movie, BUCK the movie runs the full gamut of emotions – from fun to funny to heart-warming to heart-wrenching.

The vistas and the animals are an eyeful and for the most part nicely – if not beautifully – photographed. Sometimes you can just smell the leather, taste the dust, feel the power of the horses.

And if the open road, ranches and animals aren’t your thing, the intelligence of this quiet man is fascinating. You learn more about Buck the man by the way creatures respond to him (2 and 4 legged varieties) than you do by listening to him. He is typically, even stereotypically, the laid-back cowboy who only speaks when he really has something to say. And yet somehow this strong, reserved man leaves you with the impression that he wears his heart on his sleeve.

As The Duke once said, “A man’s got to have a code – a creed to live by.” Brannaman tells you straight – “Your horse is a mirror to your soul”. Through his work with horses that are brought to him, the animal’s “person” can’t help but see their own strengths and weaknesses reflected in the behavior patterns Buck is addressing. BUCK the film does an excellent job of intertwining these soul-searching moments with lighter motifs to create an entertaining, fascinating, educating work of art.

Incredibly, this is a first film for director Cindy Meehl. With a background in Fine Arts and fashion design, she formed her film company in 2008 and started making this film. That accounts for the simplistic approach to the film, but fortunately for her, not only can the subject matter stand up to her inexperience, the film is probably better for it. Stripped down and straightforward storytelling is refreshing, and since she didn’t have any tricks up her sleeve she wasn’t tempted to use them. With a no-nonsense subject like Buck Brannaman, slick film making would have been a disaster.

And as though this truly great film about a truly great man isn’t enough reason to watch BUCK, the DVD release features not only good bonus features, but commentary with the filmmakers and Buck himself. This is only the second time in my years of reviewing that I have said this – watch the film a second time with the commentary. While there is the inevitable rambling to fill in the dead air, Brannaman has a lot more to say than the film has time to tell. And he’s well-worth the listen.

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