Superficially a cowboy caricature, it's only once we get to know the life story of the soft-spoken, sometimes taciturn "horse whisperer" Dan "Buck" Brannaman that we appreciate the grace of the man and this deserved winner of audience awards at this year's Sundance and Full Frame festivals. Buck's empathetic brand of natural horsemanship has its roots in the merciless abuse his alcoholic father heaped upon Buck and his brother as children. Buck is a portrait of contrasts, the archetypal American cowboy who also sports an iPod and admits to watching Oprah for tips on what women like. He's the silhouette of masculinity cast against a rugged profession, but he's also a sensitive, scarred soul whose career path stems, in part, out of a lifelong search for a father figure. There are gaps in debut director Cindy Meehl's rendering, along with a latent push to deify Buck throughout. Still, to quote its star, Buck
is not a movie about "horse problems." It's a movie about "people problems."