A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unbridled is a subtly faith-based drama about an abused teen named Sarah (Téa Mckay) who finds help in the form of an equine-assisted therapy program. Although the movie doesn't have any graphic scenes except for a moment when a young woman who has attempted suicide is shown, seemingly unconscious, on the ground, with bloodied bandages around her wrists, there are several references to mature/heavy themes like sexual abuse, sex trafficking, parental neglect, self-harm, and alcoholism. There's a scene in which a man tasers someone and threatens a young woman (and a horse) with a gun. And there are scenes in which alcohol (mostly wine and what looks like vodka) is purposely given to an alcoholic woman to lower her defenses and force her to look the other way. But language isn't an issue, and romance is limited to a sweet friendship that includes mild flirting and a couple of meaningful looks.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
UNBRIDLED is a faith-based drama about the healing power of equine-assisted therapy for abused young women. The movie follows high schooler Sarah (Téa Mckay), who struggles at home with her alcoholic mother (Dey Young) and her mother's boyfriend (Eric Roberts), who's abusing Sarah by forcing her to service his potential clients. When Sarah's behavior in class tips off her teacher that something's wrong, the authorities place the girl in a group home and invite her to participate in the titular Unbridled, a special equine-assisted therapy program. Meanwhile, Sarah's mom -- who's been deemed unfit -- takes mandated parenting classes from Detective Sangrin (T.J. Stallings), whose own child is missing. Sarah works with Dreamer, a horse who was also abused and rarely allows people to interact with him. As Sarah continues to talk to and connect with Dreamer, they form a bond that helps both human and horse.
Is it any good?
This long horse-therapy drama is well-intentioned and heartfelt, but it suffers from uneven performances, unsatisfying pacing issues, and underwhelming screenwriting. Unbridled is riddled with stilted dialogue delivery; it's difficult to watch Mckay, who's a decent first-time actor, interact with her cohort of Unbridled patients. The conversations between "edgy" Mary (Nikko Austen Smith) and Sarah fall flat instead of creating tension. An off-putting equestrian cameo feels forced, as does the overt placement of horse feed/supplements (there's literally a close-up of the products).
On the bright side, Roberts doesn't have to do much to seem creepy, and Stallings (a fixture in the faith-based film industry) does his best to play a detective who's dealing with his own private tragedy. The movie's faith component is present but not as overt or preachy as it can be in other films in the popular genre. The subject of equine-assisted therapy is definitely compelling, and it's important to discuss with teens the various themes the movie explores, but Unbridled misses the mark.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Unbridled. Is it necessary to the story? What's the best way for parents and teens to discuss heavy issues such as abuse and self-harm?
Who do you think the movie's intended audience is? Are the faith-based parts as clear as they are in other movies?
- In theaters: January 18, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 12, 2019
- Cast: Eric Roberts, T.C. Stallings, Dey Young
- Director: John David Ware
- Studio: Cinespots
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic content including some disturbing images
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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