The Horse Whisperer

Year: 1998
Production Co: Touchstone Pictures
Studio: Disney
Director: Robert Redford
Writer: Eric Roth/Nicholas Evans
Cast: Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Neill, Scarlett Johansson, Dianne Weist, Chris Cooper
There's more to The Horse Whisperer than a young Scarlett Johansson. There's the oft-trod passage from mega selling blockbuster novel (complete with its own Dan Brown/J K Rowling-like mythology) to movie.

Long before Ron Howard and Tom Hanks fell in love with Robert Langdon and his globetrotting quest, Robert Redford did so with Nicholas Evans' titular hero.

Evans' book, made famous by the hefty advance he was paid before it was even finished, was far more layered and rich, unencumbered by the running time of a feature film, and at best, star and director Redford can only borrow some of the strongest moments in the story, dressing them up with travelogue-like tracking shots of the beautiful countryside.

He and screenwriter Eric Roth inexplicably dispense with the book's far more dramatic ending, opting for a far softer movie. Thomas and Redford share elegant chemistry but they're not given enough time to explore it and the end result is something like a movie version of a Stephen King book; all the markers in place but the finer points of the humanity lost.

Booker (Redford) is a horse whisperer, a man gifted with the power to heal psychologically damaged horses. After colliding with a truck while riding, Annie's (Thomas) daughter Grace (Johansson) is left emotionally scarred as well as losing her leg, the horse surviving but no less freaked out.

Annie seeks Booker out in the hopes of healing both child and animal, but the effect Booker and his home-on-the-range lifestyle has on Annie is less expected. It brings some very strong and photogenic themes together (forbidden love, rural life), but feels like a light version of the novel.

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