Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1998. Touchstone Pictures, Wildwood Enterprises. Screenplay by Eric Roth, Richard LaGravenese, based on the novel by Nick Evans. Cinematography by Robert Richardson. Produced by Patrick Markey, Robert Redford. Music by Thomas Newman, Gwil Owen. Production Design by Jon Hutman. Costume Design by Judy L. Ruskin. Film Editing by Hank Corwin, Freeman A. Davies, Tom Rolf. Academy Awards 1998. Golden Globe Awards 1998.
Absorbing, superior adaptation of Nicholas Evans’ novel features Kristin Scott Thomas in top form as a frightened mother who is losing her daughter (Scarlett Johansson) to grief following a tragic accident that claims the life of the daughter’s best friend. Scott Thomas decides to take her daughter’s horse, injured severely in the accident as well, to an equine shaman (Robert Redford), hoping that the psychological survival of the animal will mean the emotional survival of her daughter; what she doesn’t count on is possible romance with the ‘horse whisperer’. The many levels of storytelling are managed beautifully in the seamless script by Richard LaGravenese and Eric Roth, who wisely keep out much of the annoying sexual overtones of the novel in favour of a more intellectual relationship between the two leads. Johansson is compelling as the burgeoning young woman, and Dianne Wiest is a natural as a rancher’s daughter turned rancher’s wife with big dreams of the world beyond.