"Charming, Sentimental Story of a Girl and Her Horse"
What You Need To Know:
ORPHAN HORSE is well-directed with stellar performances by Voight and Alexa Nisenson, who plays Shelly. The story is engaging, as viewers slowly learn about Ben’s past, though the plot is resolved quickly in the end. The movie is very family-friendly and devoid of most negative content. The minor violence is always off screen. There is a reference to God, when Shelly says at the “horse funeral” that God loves all creatures, and they build a Christian cross in remembrance of the horse. Though not overt, the world of Ben Crowley and Shelly is one filled with biblical principles of doing the right thing, seeking forgiveness and making sure evil is stopped and punished. Designed for a family audience, ORPHAN HORSE leaves viewers feeling good at seeing lives restored.
ORPHAN HORSE stars Jon Voight as Ben Crowley, a curmudgeonly retired horse trainer with a tragic, unknown past. His solitary life is interrupted by Shelly, a 12-year-old girl who runs away from her physically and emotionally abusive foster parents. Seeking refuge for the night, Shelly hides out in Ben’s stables when wolves attack, killing one horse, which makes an orphan of the other horse, named Filly.
Ben discovers Shelly and tells her to leave at first. However, she instantly develops a unique relationship with the surviving horse, Filly. Shelly changes the young horse’s name to Orphan, since she lost her mother just like Shelly had lost hers. Ben allows her to stay for the night and that one night turns into a few others.
Meanwhile, the foster parents try to cover up the missing Shelly, in order to get the state’s payment for foster care. The social worker and sheriff become suspicious and investigate. The movie reveals that the social worker and sheriff have had a long dating relationship, but Caroline, the social worker, won’t commit to marriage.
Shelly and Ben, though adversarial, slowly grow to care for one another, as Ben’s tragic past slowly unfolds, and the movie reveals Ben’s harsh exterior is in response to a tragic accident years before. Though Ben says it can’t be done quickly, Shelly is able to “break” Orphan and starts to ride her. Because of both Shelly and even Orphan the horse, Ben’s harsh exterior also breaks and healing begins for him and his family. The authorities discover Shelly’s abuse bruises from beatings and arrest the foster parents, setting up a positive resolution for everyone.
ORPHAN HORSE is a well-directed movie with stellar performances by Voight and Alexa Nisenson, who plays Shelly. The movie is set in beautiful autumn horse country and many scenes take advantage of the golden sun. The story is a bit slow in parts, but it becomes more engaging as we slowly piece together what happened in Ben’s life. This slow reveal of the backstory is compelling and draws the viewer deeper into the heart of the main characters. The ending arrives very quickly, and in the course of just one scene, a healing miracle occurs, strained family relationships are resolved in a conversation, and things do get wrapped up, perhaps a little too neatly. Having said that, moviegoers who love happy endings will cheer the horse, the kind old horse trainer and the young girl who is wise beyond her years. The movie is emotionally moving thanks to the wonderful performances delivered through great direction.
The movie is very family-friendly and devoid of most negative content. The violence is always off screen, such as the car striking a horse and wolves are shot, but intentionally not killed. More disturbing images such as a child being beaten are both off screen and implied. There is a passing reference to God, when Shelly says at the “horse funeral” that God loves all creatures, and they build a cross in remembrance of the horse.
Though not overt, the world of Ben Crowley and Shelly is one filled with biblical principles of doing the right thing, seeking forgiveness and making sure that evil is stopped and punished. Designed for a family audience, ORPHAN HORSE leaves viewers feeling good at seeing lives restored.