US Catholic Faith in Real Life


By Patrick McCormick | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Directed by Cindy Meehl (Sundance Selects, 2011)

In Genesis 2 God responds to Adam’s isolation by creating animals to provide the lonely human with companions. Ever since, friendships formed with other creatures have nurtured our souls and reminded us how to befriend our human neighbors. Unfortunately, when we have forgotten how to be friends to animals, it often means we have lost that gift with people as well.

Cindy Meehl’s heartwarming documentary about horse trainer Buck Brannaman introduces a soulful cowboy who helps repair shattered friendships. Buck, the “horse whisperer” who inspired Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, spends much of the year giving clinics on a gentle approach to horse training called “natural horsemanship.”

The genius and power of Buck’s approach is to be found in the extraordinary empathy and compassion he shows his four-legged clients and students, approaching them with an almost mystical sense of wonder and care, giving them time and space to feel comfortable and safe in his presence and accept and respond to his directions like musicians following a maestro.

Buck’s compassion and empathy becomes even more striking when we learn that he and his brother Bill were raised by a violent father who never spared the rod when training his two young sons to be trick rodeo performers. Film clips and reminiscences of a childhood terrorized by savage parenting make it clear that the young Buck knew what it was like to be treated like a beast. A brave high school coach and local deputy rescued the boy from this violent household, and good fortune placed him with a foster couple whose love and compassion must have been as welcome as a desert oasis.

Buck is a tale of redemption, of a child turning from the violence of his father and showing compassion to other creatures who have been mistreated and doing unto others as should have been done unto him.