Movies frequently take us on a journey. They are personal journeys often involving travel to exotic places. “The Horse Boy” takes us to new places, and the quest by the parents of “The Horse Boy” tugs at our family hearts and seeking spirits.
The title of this documentary refers to an autistic child who seems to find a calm connection to horses. This is a child who routinely expresses himself in tantrums. His dad, a horse lover, dreams of a day when his son, Rowan, might ride a horse by himself. His mom dreams of a day when Rowan might be potty trained.
Rowan's parents apply themselves to their exhausting responsibility lovingly. The boy's father says he has no doubt that he is a better father because of the cards his family has been dealt.
Somehow, Rupert and Kristin get the notion that a shaman healer in the outer reaches of Mongolia might loosen what is stuck in their autistic son's development. This idea probably surfaced from the draw of adventurous travels that characterized their time together before parenthood.
Even without an autistic young boy, this trip is a tad more convoluted than a trip to a medical specialist. It's a considerable shift off any usual definition of a family vacation.
They travel much of the Asian distance by horseback. The boy exhibits some improvement, it seems, just in the fact and style of the journey. He befriends the son of their guide and interpreter. Playing with a friend – making friends – is definitely an improvement. (That playmate deserves his own story but the focus of the film doesn't accommodate this.)
Is this trip crazy? Maybe. Is it hopeful? Certainly. Is there a misdirected level of self-indulgence and privilege in this story? Visit these lives. Experience their journey.
Take advantage of one the repeated gifts that movies offer: Spending 90 minutes engrossed in an enlightening circumstance you would never choose to live in real time.