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Based on the classic story, Black Beauty is the life story of a horse, from birth to retirement, as seen from the horse's point of view. His joys and trials are really dependent on who his owner is, and the treatment that he is receiving. These experiences range from a wealthy family that cares for him in grand fashion to a man that uses him to haul loads of grain far heavier than the horse should be pulling.
There are those that may argue that this is a film overflowing in sentimental rubbish, and that no one knows how a horse really feels. However, I found it a pleasant change to see a horse movie that addresses the needs of the animals, even if it still is a human interpretation. Of course, a horse cannot write a screenplay, but I grow tired of movies like The Silver Stallion and The Man From Snowy River. It seems the entire point of these and many other films is that man can overcome and rule the horse.
Black Beauty is full of people that rule the horse, but it allows the viewer to realize that animals are often treated like machinery, especially during the days of Victorian England, when this film is set. Other worthwhile themes appear as well. When Beauty is working for a cab driver in London, his home is very simple, yet the love of the driver and his family far makes up for his lodgings. Finally, Beauty is discovered by Joe, who was just a boy when he cared for Beauty at his first home. By now the horse is a rack of bones, and uncared for, but Joe still realizes the beauty that is within.
Probably the biggest problem this film poses for children is the emotional experience it presents. Watch it with them, and be sensitive to how they may feel. In short, this is a sad movie, and children may be troubled by Beauty's experiences. However, they may also come away with an increased sensitivity for the feelings of animals.
Black Beauty is rated G:
Director: Caroline Thompson
Cast: Sean Bean, David Thewlis
Studio: 1994 Warner Brothers Studios