Black Beauty premiered on 27th November 2020 on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar. Written and directed by Ashley Avis and adapted from the 1877 novel of the same name by Anna Sewell, the 110-minutes-long film stars Mackenzie Foy, Kate Winslet, Claire Forlani, Iain Glen, and Fern Deacon alongside other cast members.
“A wise horse once told me that a mustang’s spirit can never be broken”. – Beauty
I read a quote from Heather Wolf’s writing that said: “Animals are a gift from above for they truly define the words, unconditional love.” Watching Black Beauty instantly took me back to that. The film revolves around the life of a black mustang who had a free life and a family. When she is 2 years old, her curiosity for the world rises and on her exploration, she attracts cowboys who proceed to wrangle her entire herd to their grounds where they sell them away. And this entire incident results in her never seeing her mother again.
Angry and sad, mustang survives with her guilt where the cowboys keep her and it is here that she meets John Manly (Iain Glen), who works at a ranch and wants to buy this beautiful and stubborn black mustang for training and sale. She resists him, shows her anger but unlike every man she has seen, he understands her fears. As the story progresses, we see her being stubborn and sad until one day when John’s orphaned niece Jo Green (Mackenzie Foy) arrives and things take a turn for everyone. The story of departure and hope of meeting again is lived by and we hear it all in the mustang’s voice, now named Beauty.
Kate Winslet voices Beauty, the mustang, here. And if you have seen movies like A Dogs Purpose or A Dogs Way Home, Black Beauty is on the same line. We get a lot of heartwarming and painful parts in her narrative. Being an adaptation, the film is a retelling of its source material contemporized for modern-day audiences with characters, plot, and actions known and seen. While the film is beautiful in its idea and you sympathize with Beauty and appreciate her strength with all your heart, the same moral values are played here: “bB nice to animals, horses specifically”.
Black Beauty has a lot of potential in terms of its cast and storyline and the film could have used its full potential only if it would have delved deeper into the idea of a deep sense of loss and agony and not replaying the same moral values. The film makes you sympathize, smile, and feel things but casts an invisibility cloak on the harsh and often horrific realities of life in many places.
You would just want the film to be a bit more honest and pinching as not everyone gets what they want as Jo did, there is a serious lack of catharsis in any character! And even the love story that starts in here is left hanging and there are a few rough edges here and there.
Summing up, while there is more that you might end up wanting from Black Beauty, the film is an entertainer in itself and a perfect film to watch with your family. It tries to induce the idea of family, love, and loss and does that to some extent too but grief is often undermined here, complete with a happy ending.
Stream It or Skip It
STREAM IT! Black Beauty has its fair share of flaws and lacks a certain amount of depth but seeing the world through the eyes of an animal is always beautiful. There is just something extremely soothing and painful about it! The film has gained negative responses but it’s a hard year and we all could use a small ray of sunshine from wildlife to maybe feel something nice for an hour!
Black Beauty is now streaming on Disney+/Disney+ Hotstar.
Read our other reviews here.