Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Movie Review: Buck

Amazing Movie Review: Buck – A Wise Cowboy Philosopher

By Perry S. Chen, Movie Review Columnist


(4.5 out of 5 starfish)

In training horses, it has always been about breaking wild horses and showing who the boss is, but could there be another way?

Buck Brannaman, a real life cowboy philosopher and the inspiration for the book and film “The Horse Whisperer,” knows that horse training is not all about being dominant to the horse, but about listening, discipline, and kindness.

Perry Chen with Buck Brannaman at the San Diego premiere (photo by Zhu Shen)

Buck came from a tragic background, with his loving mother passing away when he was very young, and his abusive father beating him and his older brother “Smoky” to release his own anger. Although Buck’s dad smiled in photos, I could not sense the warmth in him. Buck managed to rise above all that and became a great horse whisperer and father, because he did not want to repeat the pain he experienced, and also because of his caring foster parents Forrest and Betsy Shirley. I noticed that Buck teaches his horses the same way his foster parents treated him, by caring for them, being gentle, and showing that he is not a threat.

Buck was very hard-working from the start. Forrest and Betsy Shirley realized that he didn’t need pity and remorse, just a job to do. Buck does the same with his wild horses. His perseverance made him hardly seem like a victim.

Buck speaks with a soft voice, and is very philosophical, an uncommon talent for a cowboy. He disciplines his horses like children, and says that “Your Horse is a mirror to your soul. You may not always like what you see in the mirror, but it’s the truth.” He trains his horses with a small red flag attached to a metal pole. He rubs the flag on the horses if he is pleased with their response, and lightly hits them if they misbehave. He says that it feels like being spanked by a sock.

Buck spends about 9 months a year on the road, hosting teaching clinics for horse owners throughout the country. He learned the natural way to work with horses from his mentor Ray Hunt. He not only “helps people with horse problems,” but also “horses with people problems.”

“Buck” is a “Perrific!” film. I give it 4.5 out of 5 starfish! It shows how Buck overcame his life’s challenges and how he treated his horses and people around him. My favorite scene is when Buck had a wild colt in a pen and 5 minutes later, he was riding it. To me it just seemed magical how he tames these amazing, wild creatures. I thought that the music had a Western style that gave the film a nice atmosphere.

I wish the filmmakers could have showed more about what Buck’s brother did later on and his relationship with Buck as they grew up together. It is very impressive how Director Cindy Meehl made such a great film that told an amazing story from many different perspectives: including old photos and TV footage, interviews with Buck’s childhood friends, his wife, daughter, foster mom, people who attended his horse clinics, and actor and filmmaker Robert Redford who directed “The Horse Whisperer.” It is hard to believe that this is only the director’s first film!

I recommend this film to anybody older than 8, because younger kids might be scared of a bloody scene with a trainer. This film is not just for horse lovers, but for everybody as well. I think kids can learn a lot from this film too, such as how to overcome your past, stop finding excuses for yourself, and appreciating challenges from your parents.

Mom and I were delighted to meet Buck and his wife Mary at the film’s San Diego premiere on June 16, 2011. At the post-screening Q&A moderated by our friend, fellow film critic Dan Bennett, Buck was warmly received by the audience, including many who attended his horse clinic in San Diego. Many people asked questions (I did too), which he answered with wit, a warm smile, and a deep, Southern drawl. I could not believe that he was once a painfully shy boy, considering how witty and thoughtful his comments were. He was often humorous too in the movie and at the Q&A. He seems like a natural speaker.

I asked Buck about the best part of his job, and he said it is to “say the right things to someone that will help them with their lives or the rest of their lives” when “something profound happens.”

An 11-year-old boy in a cowboy outfit asked Buck what he would have done if he didn’t become a cowboy, Buck laughed and said, “a truck driver.” He does drive a lot on the road!

The moral of the film: Adversity could be your best teacher, if you can rise above it. (official website)

Copyright 2011 by Perry S. Chen


Perry S. Chen is an 11-year-old award-winning film critic, artist, entertainment personality, filmmaker and animator. He writes movie reviews for San Diego Union Tribune, Animation World Network, Amazing Kids!, and his own website Perry’s Previews ( Connect with him on Facebook: