War Horse....& the Meaning of Life

When I know that a movie is going to affect me deeply, I have a special way of dealing with it. Unless I can watch it with Esther (which isn't often) I sneak off quite alone, without telling anyone where I'm going. I buy a ticket for the very first screening, and sit in my favourite seat (aisle, front row).  I buy a coffee and nothing else. I take off my shoes and curl my legs up underneath me. And I watch it from the very beginning until the last credit has rolled from the screen. Then I hug it to me for as long as I can, until real life breaks the spell.
So it was this morning, when I went to the first showing of Steven Spielberg's War Horse. I don't usually write movie reviews...Esther does it so much better than me on her fabulous blog Half Sweet, Half Salty...and this won't be a review either. I've read some very disappointed critics on the subject of this film...and I'm sure that I will continue to do so. Personally, I never let a critic decide what I watch - I always like to make my own mind up because, in the end - to me - my opinion is the only one that counts after all!
So I can only tell you what it meant to me. And I knew from the moment I saw the trailer for this film that it was going to be one of 'those' movies. If you know me, or follow this blog, you'll know that history is one of my 'things'...and WW1 in particular. I'm currently researching and writing a novel set during that conflict so I know a lot about it...but it's a period that has affected me for as long as I can remember. I saw the stageplay, War Horse and loved it so much. When I heard that it was being made into a film, I was worried at first until I read that Spielberg would be directing. Because I knew that he would get it.And he does.
On the surface, it's a fairly simple tale of a boy & his horse. But it's so much more than that. It's about kindness and patience, courage and loyalty. And love. The triumph of love.
There's a scene, quite late on, where Joey (the horse) is quite alone in a torn and shattered landscape...except that there's a tank slowly and relentlessly lumbering towards him. Looking through the animal's eyes (as we are invited to do) I saw the almost laughable absurdity of humans. This huge hunk of metal, that was invented solely to kill & maim looked absolutely ridiculous. And yet so terrifying.
Anyone who has loved an animal cannot fail to be moved by this film, I don't think. What is it about horses? I'm fairly nervous around them in real life. But there's a primeval connection between them and us that makes them (along with dogs, perhaps) the most poignant of subjects. And this film is no exception...their strength and courage is perfectly contrasted with their utter vulnerability. The fate of Joey is solely in the hands of those who take ownership of him throughout the film. And he must just do the best he can.
Put all that together with the gorgeous lushness of the English countryside, the waste and tragedy of so many young men's lives, a sweeping and evocative score by the ever-brilliant John Williams and some fabulous performances (Jeremy Irvine & Emily Watson are stand-outs but all are wonderful) and you have, what is for me, a near perfect movie.
Some say that I look too deeply into things. It's a fairytale, after all...(adapted from a children's book by the amazing Michael Morpurgo) Perhaps that's true. All I can tell you is that I cried buckets and I still feel 'hungover' four hours after the credits rolled. And, like every wonderful movie that I've ever seen, a part of War Horse will stay with me forever.

Have a great weekend! xo


  1. Dear Rachel,
    I KNEW you would love this movie! Like you, I have read that some critics don't like it, but who cares? Love your review and I thank you for calling attention to it. Did you see that they had the horse,"Joey" on the red carpet at the premiere in London? I thought that was great!

    P.S. I did a post on Louis Zamperini, do you know his name? You will, after reading my post!

  2. Oh, I LOVE your little personal movie ritual!! It sounds so cozy:). I will have to check out this movie, thanks to your lovely review;). I hope you're well!

    xox, Blair

  3. I have been afraid to see it..I can endure any sad story as long it has a happy ending... ;-) So, I may have to wait until someone spoils the ending for me to decide..lol..however, I will take this glorious, meaningful recommendation to heart..xo

  4. I agree with Blair that your movie ritual is quite lovely....I can just see you sitting there, and I too, find refuge in spots such as this to think, to ponder, to read or rewind at times. It's perfect. I probably will not see the movie...only because I feel a bit fragile right now and don't want to cry for good or bad reasons. I don't want to escape to a movie of any kind right now for some strange reason; however, your telling of the movie is impeccable. It is earthy and sweet and tender and real and I feel as though I've had some of your experience sink right into me....and it's perfect, just like that. Thank you so much.....onward with your writing; it captivates this reader...

  5. I'm glad you wrote about it. I know this is a film I need to avoid. I have no doubt it's brilliant, and moving and fabulous, but it also sounds like it will be hard to watch. For me I mean, I cry so easily when watching films, I'd be a total state. For my own good, I won't watch it.

    But I'm glad to know through you that it is a wonderful film. I knew it would be.

    Love that you take yourself off to watch films. I do that sometimes too. I love it, no one (the husband) poking me in my side and stage whispering 'what did they say?'!

    Have a lovely Weekend xxx

  6. A coffee and nothing else, mmmmm.....I think you're incredibly brave. I am still steeling myself for this, am copping out this week and seeing the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Daniel Craig is easier to cope with! Brilliant review will try and be brave xxxxxxxxxxxx

  7. Hello Rachel,

    I really enjoyed reading your take on the movie and how it affected you. Any movie that conveys so many emotions - love, patience, and courage and loyalty, deserves credit. Thanks for sharing your views with us. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! xoxo

  8. Oh Rachel, I so can't wait to see this movie! I know, like you, I'll cry buckets and so wish I could watch it alone for that reason lol, but I can't lol.
    Thanks so much,
    Denise of Ingleside

  9. Oh, Rachel! What a wonderful post! One of our daughters, the one who is really a horsewoman, has seen it and agrees with you. I'm anxious to see it myself! Thank you so much for your positive review.

  10. Rachel I'm in awe of horses, their strength , beauty, grace, and connection to us in fact and symbol, history. I am actually afraid to see it and have to wait til i'm not feeling vulnerable! Loved your views on it and on WWI too.

  11. Dear Rachel, I felt almost the same way when I first saw the trailer for this movie. I was thrilled and knew I would have to see it but knew if I went to theater I would be embrassed by my sobs and knew I would wait until it's available on DVD to view in comfort of home where I could cry my eyes out. You made me want to see it even more now. Will get my tissues at the ready. Enjoyed learning your special way of seeing this kind of movies.
    Remembering when I saw the Yearly and Old Yeller years ago and how moved I was by those films. There are only a few films that have affected me this way and I think this will be one of them.


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