Black Beauty

1994, G, 85 min. Directed by Caroline Thompson. Starring Sean Bean, David Thewlis, Jim Carter, Peter Davison, Andrew Knott, Justin.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., July 29, 1994

I awaited the release of Black Beauty with the anticipation of renewing an affection with a childhood friend and the trepidation of finding that old friend changed beyond recognition. Though she's proven herself a capable and imaginative screenwriter, scoring with such hits as Edward Scissorhands, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, The Secret Garden, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Black Beauty is Caroline Thompson's first outing as a director. She acquits herself nicely, however. Though the film occasionally grows ponderous in its loving re-creation of Anna Sewell's classic 1877 novel, the film never panders to its young 1994 audience. There is no razzmatazz in this movie, no real bad guys in the cartoon sense children have come to expect in modern motion pictures. Rather, the villainy here is thoughtlessness, a lack of consideration for a fellow being, be it horse or human. Thompson's movie echoes the original story's moral beauty with a lushly elegant look, capturing both the bucolic English countryside and the squalid, crowded streets of London -- from a horse's eye view. Eschewing the traditional approach to telling stories about animals -- which is to focus on the human lives and how they are peripherally affected by the animals they encounter -- this Black Beauty, unlike earlier versions of the book, wisely follows Sewell's lead and concentrates instead on this generous, trusting horse and the consequences of its encounters with humanity. Thompson has repeatedly shown an affinity for the perspective of an outsider looking in -- which may be why she is a perfect candidate for directing children's movies. Like the animals they cherish, children are subject to the whims of their keepers and all too often those keepers do not stop to consider the repercussions of their whims. I have renewed my affection for Black Beauty and discovered that it was I who have changed. I am a keeper now, and my old friend has reminded me that I must be mindful of my whims.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Caroline Thompson
A Slice of Weird and Wonderful
A Slice of Weird and Wonderful
Distinguished Screenwriter Awardee Caroline Thompson

Marc Savlov, Oct. 21, 2011

More Sean Bean Films
Possessor Uncut
Identity melts in this psychotropic assassination brainblender

Marc Savlov, Oct. 2, 2020

The Young Messiah
Anne Rice's novel about the childhood of Jesus Christ is now a movie

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 11, 2016

More by Hollis Chacona

July 14, 2000

Dill Scallion

Oct. 8, 1999


Black Beauty, Caroline Thompson, Sean Bean, David Thewlis, Jim Carter, Peter Davison, Andrew Knott, Justin

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle