Every generation seems to get its filmed version of Black Beauty, and as with most beloved classics, this one is likely to elicit mixed reactions. Horse lovers and fans of the story will appreciate the reverent treatment of the majestic mustang. Indicative of this, the poster image comes from a memorable sequence of Jo astride a galloping Beauty, both their long, dark manes flowing in the ocean breeze, a golden light glowing from behind. Perhaps intentionally, the film doesn't feel especially contemporary in look or characterizations, beyond one scene where teenagers use their smart phones to film a peer falling off her horse, though there are feminist messages in female Beauty, and mares uniquely lead mustang herds, we're told.
Those unfamiliar with the tale could find the voiceover narration by the horse a little off-putting at first. "A wise horse once told me," the film begins and ends, and in between, Beauty muses about human laziness, loses her temper with a bratty teen, and misses her family. She seems, well, all too human – and at times, thanks to the great Kate Winslet, even a more authentic character than some of the people in the movie. What this story has in all of its versions is the profound, loving, almost spiritual connection between human and animal. So many people have experienced that bond themselves, which could make it hard for them to escape getting caught up in the emotions of this film.