The Horse Boy

(i)

 

True story about quest for autism cure; better for parents.
  • Review Date: May 5, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This film shows kids what it's like to live with someone with autism and familiarizes them with the condition's challenges. Themes include: stepping outside one's comfort zone; taking risks; the importance of tolerance and love; and the value of animals.

Positive role models

These parents will do anything to help their child with autism, including travel to an unfamiliar country to undergo unusual treatment. Though they question their decision, especially when the process is difficult, they persevere, and ultimately see results and learn to love their son for who he is. The parents eventually go on to found The Horse Boy Foundation, which makes horses and nature available to other children, autistic and typical, who might otherwise not have access to them.

Violence

Adults are whipped by a shaman and told they can't scream or make any sounds. During a breakfast, the choices are the lung, liver, and heart of an animal. Animal carcasses are visible in one scene.

Sex

The mother is told that she has to wash the area where her son came out. When she does this, she faces away from the camera and her behind is blurred.

Language

The father has a tendency to swear whenever his son -- who isn't toilet-trained -- has an accident. He says "Jesus Christ" a couple of times, "butt-f--ker," "f--ked up," "motherf----r of a poo," "and s--ting his pants" to express his frustration.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Shaman smokes cigarette.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this no-holds barred documentary, which shows what life is like for a boy who has autism, includes some heavy topics best for adults and mature teens. The movie includes lots of discussion about the parents' concerns and frustrations in dealing with their autistic child, which younger kids won't relate to and may find upsetting. One scene includes a shaman whipping the parents as part of the healing process, and another shows the mother washing her vagina (which is blurred) as part of the ritual. A decent portion of the film is devoted to the child's inability to poop on the potty, and his father's intense reactions, including strings of curses ("motherf---ker," "s--t," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation). By letting viewers into their lives, the family helps expand understanding of autism, culture, nature, animals, and what it means to heal.

Parents say

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What's the story?

After exhausting traditional medicine's approach to their son's severe autism, parents Rupert and Kristin Isaacson undertake an epic journey to Mongolia in hopes of finding a more spiritually minded treatment. During their travels, they meet with several shamans who offer explanations and conduct rituals for their son's condition. Eventually, they travel several days on horseback to meet with a very special healer. Throughout the trip, the Isaacsons learn valuable lessons about themselves and their son, and see him make incremental but significant progress. When he's around animals -- especially horses -- he also does well. The couple eventually found an theraputic organization that brings kids -- both autistic and typical -- together with horses. Experts on autism, including Temple Grandin, appear in interview segments to offer insight into the experience of living with autism.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Based on an acclaimed book by Rupert Isaacson about his family's voyage to Mongolia, THE HORSE BOY is an honest depiction of a family who reaches a breaking point, yet keeps going. The Isaacsons let the cameras into their lives with unflinching honesty, revealing their raw emotions throughout their struggles and joys as they watch their son emerge from his shell through his relationship with animals. Throughout it all, the parents' love for their child and each other shines through.

Though the filmmaking isn't top-notch, with some awkward transitions, the combination of a compelling personal story and some expert commentary about autism creates a powerful documentary about a subject most people know little about. Because they've let you into their lives, you can't help but root for this disjointed family to come together. Suspense builds throughout the journey: Will Rowan get better? The poignant scenes at the end will bring tears to your eyes.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about disabilities and differences. How do you think the media usually handles disability and difference? Does it rely on stereotypes? Does this film do things differently?

  • Do you know anyone with autism or any other disabilities? Has this film changed your perspective? Did you learn anything from the movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 4, 2009
DVD release date:April 20, 2010
Cast:Kristin Isaacson, Rupert Isaacson, Temple Grandin
Director:Michel O. Scott
Studio:Zeitgeist Films
Genre:Documentary
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of The Horse Boy was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written byRachel Laufer September 10, 2014

Temple Grandin has ought to stop! (The author)

Please never ever trust Temple Grandin. She either only believes in lies about autism or knows the truth but sells rubbish and claptrap inside of a pretty cover with a smiling lady on it. Temple Grandin feels pride in herself and polishes honesty with dark sarcasm and myths to ruin families' lives when she promises to help them. I am very clever and I feel terrible about today's people who believe in all this bosh and show confidence as if they believe there is no tomorrow.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Kid, 12 years old September 9, 2011

Insperational

your right best left for parents(wiat how should i know im 12!)
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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