Touching a Void
When his dad and sister die in a car accident, and his mum is left in a coma, 12 year-old Mark (Mark Rendall - The Interrogation of Michael Crowe) is left with no one to look after him and is sent to live with his Aunt Fiona (Jane Seymour - Heart of a Stranger) on a remote island where she studies the wildlife, especially the wild horses with the only other person on the island being Charles (Charles Martin Smith - Roughing It), a park ranger. Not only is Fiona cantankerous but she use to be a school teacher and expects Mark too study every day so that he doesn't fall behind when he returns to the mainland which she hopes is sooner rather than later. But as the days pass they begin to bond until that harmony is tested when Mark breaks the cardinal rule and touches a colt which has been orphaned when his mother is killed. Initially angered by his disobedience Fiona and Mark both learn some lessons by the events which follow.
I've seen a few horse movies over the years and unfortunately many of them end up familiar, using similar story ideas and doing them in a cliche manner. So when I stumbled across "Touching Wild Horses" and read the synopsis which said a boy missing his parents goes to live with his cantankerous aunt who studies wild horses I thought here we go again, a slight variation on the routine of a cantankerous rancher and an estranged niece. But "Touching Wild Horses" is more than just the stereotypical and the storyline features some mystery which helps to lift it.
That mystery first comes from the fact that Mark has these unsettling nightmares involving his family and rather than being told everything right away we get to understand what is going on bit by bit. But we also have the mystery revolving around Fiona and why she chose to abandon society to live for the past two decades on Sable Island where the only human contact is with the ranger or cargo ships. Again we are slowly painted a picture of what caused Fiona to turn her bank on society and become a bit of a cantankerous introvert.
Of course this cantankerousness doesn't last long and we get the bonding as Fiona begins to care for Mark which is the parallel required for when Mark breaks the rules and worries about the Colt because of course if Fiona hadn't taken him in he would have died going by her rules. It doesn't take a genius to spot where "Touching Wild Horses" is going from the minute it starts and thankfully it has plenty of other things going on so that it doesn't only become about waiting for the expected to happen.
Aside from that young Mark Rendall gives an incredibly grown up performance whilst Jane Seymour under layers of weatherproof clothing not only manages to still be beautiful, becoming more beautiful the longer the movie goes on, but is surprisingly cold during the early cantankerous scenes. Plus the beautiful cinematography really comes alive when you watch this on the biggest screen you can. I am not on about just beautiful sun-lit shots of horses but the cinematography as a whole with some lovely moody shots as well.
What this all boils down to is that on paper "Touching Wild Horses" looks like just another cliche horse movie with a troubled kid and a cantankerous grown up. But there is more to this than first meets the eye and is much more than just another horse movie.