Friendship knows no boundaries…
There’s been variations on the theme of the story of Black Beauty over the years but that doesn’t make them any less effective as this new version of this classic tale is a heartwarming yarn that would make anyone from ages 8 through to 80 feel all warm inside.
This modern day reimagining of Anna Sewell’s timeless classic, follows ‘Black Beauty’ (voiced by Kate Winslet) a wild horse born free in the American West. Rounded up and taken away from her family, Beauty is brought to Birtwick Stables where she meets a spirited teenage girl, Jo Green (Mackenzie Foy). Beauty and Jo forge an unbreakable bond that carries Beauty through the different chapters, challenges, and adventures of her life.
While it’s not reinventing the wheel, Black Beauty is a heartfelt and wholesome affair that hits all the right buttons.
Writer/Director Ashley Avis steps up to the studio fare here with some genuine skill and aplomb. Sure it’s all a little formulaic but it hits all the right notes with real balance allowing the character work to shin through. The film certainly looks great from top to bottom and Avis has a keen sense of scope allowing the country side and wide open spaces that these horses exist in do the job that is needed of them. Nothing gets forced and it all has genuine flow, even when we can anticipate what’s going to happen we’re invested in it all thanks to some strong cinematic work and legit character work.
Young Mackenzie Foy is coming into her own as an actor and was a strong choice to carry the film. As Jo Green we get the pain of her younger existence being forced on to the farm and then years later as a self assured young woman looking to reunite with the one friend who helped her become the young woman that she eventually evolves into. While the narrative makes a few jumps into statements about animal rights and some of the cruelty out there in the world, it manages to keep its eye on the main focus of a story like this. It’s about treating people (and animals with dignity) which is something we tend to lose track of in this fast pace world that has overly commercialized the word “friendship”, which goes beyond so much more then the surface. She embodies this message to a tee.
Kate Winslet was great in the voice of Beauty to the point that her voice didn’t stand out and distract from the narrative while still allowing the character to have some genuine emotional layers to it as Beauty’s relationship with Jo began to evolve. Iain Glen never gets enough credit for being a solid character actor while Fern Deacon, Calam Lynch and Claire Forlani round it all out. That being said, it’s hard to deny that this film is about Jo and Beauty and the unspoken bond that they share.
As the coming of age story doesn’t have a lot of variants to it, Black Beauty is successful because it boils it down to the core element of friendship and how it can pull us through, be it man, woman, girl or horse to something much better. It’s a reminder that we need faith in each other because friendship is how we pull each other through those hard times.