... still one of Hollywood's most sentient and important figures.
In the turbulent sixties, when Paul Newman and Robert Redford were the models for independent no-holds-barred youth as in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", it seemed the worship of youth would never end - no matter how the winds of war bowled us over. Yet an echo of the old psyche shows itself prominently in the Robert Redford movie "The Horse Whisperer" - a feast of color and evocation in the "wilds" of Montana.
As Tom Booker, the horse whisperer, Redford is contentedly working on a western ranch away from the big city stress when two women appear, a dominating and pretty editor from New York City and a forlorn teenager anguished over a horse-riding accident, in which her friend died and she lost a leg. Young Scarlett Johannson is winning in this trying role.
The tragedy is somewhat alleviated by the trip of mother and daughter with the wounded horse across the country to settle temporarily with the Redford menage in a splendid locale of crystalline snow caps and behemoth hills rendered in striking painterly style.
Some viewers might think that the concentration on artistic photography of Richard Robertson diminishes the dramatic tale, but so sensitive is the visual team that you can be drawn even to the warmth of the meal-time prayer scene.
Ultimately, the mother, Kristin Scott Thomas, who appeared in "The English Patient", unbends and softens in the new environment. Perhaps the highest marks should go to the fiery-eyed, stomping horse, as Redford wrangles, cajoles and somehow persuades the horse to follow the script. The gradual healing of the horse accompanies the healing of the girl's trauma.
Sam Neill as the girl's father shows equanimity in relating to his wife's infatuation with the wrangler, and urbanity in offering her time to choose. A convincing performance.
In acting and directing, Redford shows that he's still one of Hollywood's most sentient and important figures.