Touching Wild Horses (2004) is a movie about a young boy, Mark Benton (Mark Rendall), whose father and younger sister have died in a car crash, his mother is in a coma, and so he is taken to live with his rather eccentric Aunt Fiona (Jane Seymour) who lives on Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, while he waits to find out if his mother is going to live.
Mark has never met his aunt before, and she has purposely become a loner after giving birth to a son out of wedlock, being fired from her teaching position in a Catholic school, and being made to feel the shame of her family. Mark is experiencing nightmares, feeling that the car accident was his fault because they were looking for him after he fled the house because of his parents screaming at each other. Fiona begins teaching Mark so that he can bring his grades up and make progress while he is with her, and she uses her surroundings and her personal studies of the island fauna and flora, and the horses in particular, to do so.
This story takes place after the early 1960s because the Canada Shipping Act amendment is in effect stating that “no person shall molest, interfere with, feed or otherwise have anything to do with the ponies on the Island.” The only other human inhabitant on the island is Charles Thurston (played by Charles Martin Smith), a government employee who would dearly love to have Fiona ejected from the island. When Mark and Fiona ‘interfere’ with an orphaned colt whose mother was drowned in a hurricane in order to help it survive, this is Charles’ opportunity to get rid of her.
The film, shot on location at Sandbanks National Park, Ontario (since Sable Island is a nature reserve), is a tender story of a recluse and a fearful boy, reaching out, reluctantly at first, for human contact, with the colt as catalyst to draw them together. The filming of the horses and the location are beautifully done despite the fact that Sandbanks doesn’t really resemble Sable Island very much.
This story deals sensitively with some fairly mature themes, so if shown at school, it’s a good idea to discuss some of the social issues ahead of time, and look at some of the moral issues involved in respecting the law about the horses, and also about the two different scavenging activities of Fiona (who sends her finds to the museum on the mainland), and Charles (who sells his finds to the highest bidder). If viewing it at home, you should probably watch the movie with your child so that you can answer questions that arise, perhaps even previewing it first to assure that it is not too advanced for him/her. It is an excellent movie, and the interactions between Mark and the colt, and some of the antics the colt gets up to, are priceless. I plan to give my copy to my great-niece and great-nephew in a couple of years, and hope their parents will watch it with them. * * * * *