Making the Grades
As a Wyomingite who grew up with horses, I felt a little uneasy about a favorite childhood classic going Hollywood because sometimes the visual version just can't compete with the imagination.
Luckily, this remake of the 1943 film My Friend Flicka (that starred a very young Roddy McDowell as the main character) has stayed true to the essence of Mary O'Hara's story, even if the lead role was given to a girl instead of a boy.
In the updated version, Katy Laughlin (Alison Lohman) is the headstrong and feisty teenaged daughter of a rancher who raises purebred quarter horses. Back from a semester at boarding school in Laramie, Katy is happiest among the hills and horses. But her contentment is marred by one little secret she's hiding from her parents, Rob (Tim McGraw) and Nell (Maria Bello) McLaughlin. It seems her preoccupation with equines has interfered with her schoolwork and now she is facing some disciplinary action.
When Dad discovers she failed to even write her final essay, he demands she compose one over the summer and submit it to her teacher. Although her intentions are good, the remedial studies are forgotten when Katy discovers a wild mustang near the ranch house. Believing she can tame the high-spirited filly, Katy sneaks out at night (and against her father's wishes) to work with the horse she names Flicka.
Tempers flare when her dad finds out about the escapades, but Katy, with the support of her older brother Howard (Ryan Kwanten) and the two ranch hands, Gus (Dallas Roberts) and Jack (Daniel Pino), tries to convince her father she is ready for the challenge.
Growing up in a family, even a loving, hardworking one like the McLaughlins, isn't always easy.
Sometimes parents and children see things differently. Sometimes they are more alike than they realize. Fortunately, a pair of committed parents and two ambitious teens find a way to weather the tensions that descend on this household like a sudden, summertime thunderstorm.
For younger viewers, brief profanities, moments of peril and scenes depicting injured animals may be disturbing. Still, in this Wild West coming-of-age story, Katy realizes her own passions and abilities while her dad gains a new appreciation for the relationship he shares with his strong-minded daughter. That positive message may be enough to send horse lovers hoofing it into theaters for Flicka.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Flicka.
One of the characters in the film talks about having selective memory. What does that mean? Why do we remember different things about the past? Why are some experiences more memorable to one person than another?
How do the members of this family support one another during challenging times? What good behaviors do they model? What kind of relationship is depicted between Katy and her brother Howard?
Author Mary O’Hara lived in Wyoming for nearly 25 years and wrote two other books about the range country. Thunderhead was published in 1943 and Green Grass of Wyoming in 1946. Both of these books were also made into motion pictures in the 1940s.