Australian Council on Children and the Media

Buck

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Short takes

Not suitable under 10, Not recommended 10-13, Parental guidance recommended 13-15 (Violence; Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Buck
  • a review of Buck completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 February 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not suitable due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes.
Children aged 10-13 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes.
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Buck
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild coarse language, themes and violence
Length 89 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Buck is documentary film telling the story of Buck Brannaman (who appears in the film) the man who inspired the Nicholas Evan’s novel “The Horse Whisperer” and the 1998 hit film of the same name starring Robert Redford (who also appears in the film). Buck is a horse trainer who spends nine months out of each year travelling across America conducting clinics on “natural horsemanship”.

In the film we see Buck’s students bringing in unruly horses and see Buck, without whips or restraints, transform the horses into willing animals that follow his every command. The film is as much about the people who bring their horses to Buck’s clinics as it is about the horses. As Buck puts it “A lot of the time, rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems”.

The film also follows Buck’s traumatic life as a young boy, when Buck and his brother suffered systematic violent abuse at the hands of their father until the abuse was discovered by the authorities.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Child abuse; Animal cruelty and suffering

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains references to the systematic and extended physical abuse of children, brief images of violence to horses and images of real-life injuries, including the depiction of some blood and gore. Examples include:

  • We hear Buck talk about how when he was a child his father, while in a drunken stupor, woke him and his brother up in the middle of the night during winter and made them sit at the kitchen table and that Buck ran outside and hid in the dog’s kennel to escape his father’s violent rage. On another occasion, he was beaten mercilessly for not performing perfectly in a television commercial.
  • A woman talks about being attacked by a horse that reared up and stomped on her golf buggy.  She shows a scar on her chest from a bite mark she received from the horse.
  • Later in the film we see the same horse savagely attacking a man, knocking the man down, chasing him and biting him on the forehead. We see a bloody gash on the man’s forehead with blood running down the front of his face and hear that the cut was down to the bone.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight, including the following:

  • We hear Buck talking about how as a child he was terrified of his mother leaving him alone with his father when she went to work because when his mother was at home he had some protection from his father’s abuse. He talks about his mother dying, how he and his brother suffered at the hands of his father and the enduring effects of this trauma on his life.
  • One man, in tears, tells how as a child Buck was required to take a shower for gym class at school and how when Buck removed his shirt he revealed whip marks on his back from abuse he had received from his father as well as purple bruises on his legs and thighs.
  • A woman talking about Buck as a child coming out of a dire situation and being taken from his home by authorities in the middle of the night.
  • Old footage shows horse handlers restraining a bucking horse with ropes tied to a pole while they relentlessly whip the horse. 
  • Buck makes reference to some horse trainers digging spurs into their horse’s shoulders and tying bicycle chains across the horse’s nose. 
  • After a horse violently attacks and injures a man, we hear how the horse is being taken away to be “put down”.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the stories of child abuse and images of cruelty to animals described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the stories of child abuse and images of cruelty to animals described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains one low-level sexual reference:

  • Buck makes reference to watching a TV show in which the female host talks about the greatest aphrodisiac for women being for a man to use a vacuum cleaner in front of his wife.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

The film contains one scene depicting the serving of alcohol and one reference made to drunkenness:

  • Buck makes a reference to his father being drunk when Buck was a young boy.
  • Social drinking

Coarse language

The film contains occasional low-level coarse language. Examples include:

  • “damn”, “doggone”, “son of a bitch”, “holy shit”

In a nutshell

Buck is an inspiring and fascinating documentary, which is likely to interest a wide ranging audience of older adolescents and adults.  It would be difficult to be untouched by this man’s remarkable ability to communicate with horses, or his philosophies and outlooks on life. The film is confronting at times, with images and themes likely to disturb children and younger teens.

The film contains a number of messages including:

You should never forget the bad things that happen to you in life, but you do not have to live with the past.

  • Learning about how to treat horses is also about learning how you treat other people.
  • Fear isn’t respect – it is just acceptance.
  • Bribery doesn’t work - it just breeds contempt.
  • “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see.”   

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include turning adversity to strength. Rather than allowing the adversities he suffered in life to destroy him, Buck used those experiences to enable him to understand, communicate with and train horses to the extent that he became a world renowned leader in the field of natural horsemanship. 

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