Black Beauty (2020)

A nice story but nothing more

Black beauty film poster

What it’s about

A wild horse, transported to Birtwick Stables, comes across Jo Green, a lively teenage girl. Over a period of time, the two develop a friendship that helps Jo overcome challenges.

My thoughts

This is not the type of film I would normally watch, it was more a film that I watched due to the fact that it was not my turn to pick a film. It is a remake, in fact it is a remake of a remake of a remake and in fact there has actually been eight versions of this film made over the years, there have also been a number of TV series.

I have not seen any of them nor have I read the book, which initially spawned the Black Beauty world. It was penned by British author Anna Sewell back in 1877, mainly as a way to to expose the bad treatment of horses and other animals and call for people to give them better treatment.

Anyhow, one thing that all versions of Black Beauty have in common is that the story is told from the perspective of the horse. This film follows that pattern and uses a voice-over so that we can hear what Black Beauty is thinking.

Kate Winslet voices Black Beauty and tells us exactly what Black beauty is thinking, and tells us exactly what Black Beauty is thinking is the problem with this film. Warhorse was a brilliant film which followed a horse throughout the course of its life without the need for a narrator telling us what he was thinking.

The fact that in this film they decided that they needed to tell us what Black Beauty was thinking highlights the problem that showing us was not enough, meaning the visuals didn’t do a good enough job of telling the story which is why they had to have been a writer tells the story, and what the narrator constantly and repeatedly tells us it is that Black Beauty is thinking is that she is desperate to see Jo.

Which is fine, but if you having to tell us this then clearly you have not done a good enough job of showing us this which is the problem.

Now don’t get me wrong there is a nice story being told, and the acting is decent, the pacing is acceptable, even the fact that they have changed the gender of the horse from a male to a female is not a problem. Even the fact that the message of the entire series that animals should be treated better is ominously missing is not a problem.

Even the fact that at the film’s beginning, the opening scenes especially, the footage looks more like a Lloyds bank advert than something from a feature film is not a problem. Even the fact that the most important message of the entire novel, that people should be nicer to both animals and each other is missing, is not a problem.

The problem is that Black Beauty is supposed to be all of the latter and yet this none of the latter which begs the question of how is this film Black Beauty. It feels like in reality the heart and soul of Black Beauty is missing from this version of Black Beauty, and the fact that I, a person who is not a fan of the series and am able to easily pick up on this fact is really telling fact about how good of a Black Beauty film this is.

Though perhaps that is inevitable, horses these days are treated better in many ways than a lot of humans so perhaps in the revamp Disney felt it best to simply focus on a story of a young girl bonding with a horse.

Maybe they made the right call, who knows. But that’s what this film is, a story about a young girl who was torn from her family through great loss, befriending a young horse who was also torn from her family, and together forming an unbreakable bond.

That means this is not a story of a horse, this is a story of a young girl and her horse, which is told verbally through the perspective of the horse but which is told visually through the perspective of the girl. Meaning it is more the girl’s story than the Black Beauty’s.

In terms of whether it is any good, it tells a nice story and I’m always a fan of nice stories, with that in mind this gets a thumbs up from me but only as typical Disney film with a nice story. And it has to be said Black Beauty fans may be disappointed with this film.

​​Director: Ashley Avis

Writer: Ashley Avis

Genre: family, drama

Year: 2020

​Runtime: 110 minutes

Author: David Graham

Sci-fi and fantasy writer, blogger and photographer emanating from the north-east of England.

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