"Touching Wild Horses" delivers on one thing that its title promises — the film features wild horses. Director of photography Steve Danyluk and his crews capture them in all their glory, which is something to see on the big screen.
However, this isn't a documentary, it's a narrative feature film. And, unfortunately, it's not all that memorable. The insights this independently produced drama has aren't any deeper than those to be gleaned from your average Afterschool Special.
But to be fair, it's not as sickeningly sweet and overly sentimental as that implies. And it does have those horses, which counts for something.
The film follows Mark (Mark Rendall), a boy who's trying to cope with the deaths of his father and sister in an auto accident. While his mother recovers in the hospital, he's sent to live with his reclusive Aunt Fiona (Jane Seymour).
As it turns out, Fiona is studying wildlife on Sable Island, a wild-horse preserve, which sounds a lot more fun than it really is. Her accommodations can best be described as "quaint," and she insists that her new charge continue his schooling — and this former schoolmarm is a tough grader.
If that's not enough, there's another, considerably more serious rule to live by: According to federal law, they're only allowed to live on the island if they leave the horses alone and never come in contact with them.
Seymour is miscast as Fiona. Her role calls for someone older — or at least someone who looks older —than the now-fiftysomething Seymour. Consequently, when her character is supposed to be gruff, we're not buying it. (She just doesn't have the Katharine Hepburn air the role requires.)
But she and newcomer Rendall work well together, and he holds his own opposite the veteran actress.
The film's real problems lie with the material, which is too predictable. Also, the few
attempts at humor are far too fleeting, so the whole thing seems too straight-faced for its own good.
Still, kudos to Danyluk and his crews, as well as production designer Thomas Carnegie, for making the best of what was clearly a shoestring budget.
"Touching Wild Horses" is not rated but would probably receive a PG for scattered use of mild profanity, most of it religiously based, and a disturbing scene of vehicular violence (overheard). Running time: 92 minutes.