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The Horse Boy More at IMDbPro »

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28 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Uplifting and interesting movie

Author: emptyskies from Canberra, Australia
20 January 2009

I got tickets to the premiere at Sundance and must confess I wasn't that excited about going to this movie. I thought it was going to be pretty depressing.

It turns out that was pretty unfair. It's a great movie; you begin to really relate to the people and their struggles with their autistic son. The parents are absolutely saints; I have no idea how they coped for as long as they did. The backdrop of Mongolia is beautiful; and all the while, you're hoping for a miracle without letting those hopes get too far up.

Definitely worth seeing.

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21 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

A modern day autistic adventure that puts autism where it needs to be.

Author: Toadinthehole from United Kingdom
22 September 2009

This is an excellent documentary with a message about the need for diversity in which an autistic boy with a love of animals is the main focus.

A young couple and their autistic four year old boy Rowan take a pilgrimage to a sacred lake at the heart of the great Mongolian Plain where tradition has it, shamans still practice ancient healing rituals that may help heal their son of his autism. Rowan seems keen enough, but are they barking up the wrong tree?

As we take the journey with them so we start to understand what the boy's parents are really up against. Who are they and why are they making such a public show of their autistic son? Do they have something important to say to justify their family adventure? The answer is yes.

Their energy, determination and openness throughout the whole film is spoken to a friendly and compassionate camera and having previously documented the plight of the Bushmen, Rowan's father is clearly going to be in his element. But is it just another documentary for him?

Rowan's father is clearly on familiar territory as a journalist having previously visited remote tribes and other remote parts of the world, but here he is completely unable to walk away from the subject matter like any other a job; here his hands are tied. Why are we doing it? How will it end? Are we crazy subjecting ourselves and our son to such(public) expectations? We share their doubt.

For me the wild landscape of the high Mongolian Plain captured perfectly the wilderness and inner vulnerability of dealing with autism in the modern world. From start to finish one wonders where will it end and marvels at how Rowan's parents cope. Amazing stamina but sustained by true love and compassion.

The films greatest strength is its vulnerability; for this is no easy fiction. A film which could so easily have fallen into the modern day pit of an obsession for awkward personal exposure resounds with love where personal revelation reaches far wider and may touch you as much as it did me.

Well paced and nicely edited this is a motion picture about autism that had to be made and has to be seen, that puts the vital worth back into autism as part of the greater diversity of our expansive human soul.

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

shows what it's really like

Author: chuck-526 from Ipswich MA
18 December 2009

As one who was already pretty knowledgeable about autism and familiar with Mongolian shamanism, I found these pictures extremely interesting. I haven't seen anything else remotely like this, with its very real scenes of inconsolable tantrums, outrageous drug regimens, traveling with incontinence, frazzled parents, unexpected fondnesses, blue flowers, and frame drums. Sure there's some selective editing going on, maybe even bordering on impressing an overall narrative on a series of events that didn't really flow so linearly. And sure some of the magic is a little hard for our Enlightenment rationalism to just observe without trying to impose some evaluation or judgment. Who cares? In any case gobs of reality show through, and they're much closer to being there than anything else you've ever seen (unless maybe you've watched a whole lot of research footage taken through a one-way mirror). Besides, it's so refreshing to me to finally see a film about autism that does _not_ include a hand flapping scene.

I suspect some of the things in this film will seem pretty strange to most viewers, and others will only be grasped superficially; I can't say that for sure, because for me that viewing openness has already gone by and I can't get it back. I'm pretty sure though that enough will be familiar that viewers can retain their bearings - you needn't be concerned about being surreally swept away into some entirely different world.

In one scene, some offhand explanatory remarks are offered while mixing the daily drug cocktail. Those comments will probably seem innocuous or unremarkable to most. But if you've already got a laundry list of (mostly wildly speculative) possible autism treatments in your head, it becomes clear they're already trying pretty much all of them.

I know from other films that Mongolian scenery can be quite arresting. Some of the landscapes can be achingly beautiful, drawing you into a story all by themselves. But while the landscapes here are indeed striking, they're not drop-dead gorgeous. Maybe it's something about the hand-held camera format, or maybe it's some insufficiency of depth of focus, or maybe the resolution isn't quite high enough, or maybe the timing's too short, or... I'm not enough of a film-techno-freak to figure out why it is - I just know this film's less about the scenery than might be expected. .

The philosophy is pretty light: nobody hits you over the head with anything, but in the end there's no question what the parents think either. Personally I already bought into the same philosophy the film presents: given the reality of people with "different" brain structures, societies might be better served by integrating them and making them productive than by trying to divide the "sick" and the "well" by too bright a line. And there's a difference --unfortunately too often lost-- between "curing autism" and "no longer driving folks nuts" (either by mitigating a few problem behaviors or by re-framing reactions to them so they lose their potency).

To me, the part that best summarized the point of view was Dr. Temple Grandin reiterating her statement that if she could magically wave away her autism, she wouldn't. Although there's weirdness and uncomfortableness here, there's great value here too.

This is not a film about the wider significance, possible epidemic, worldwide incidence, or current medical handling of autism. What it is about is one family that was given some lemons and how they're making lemonade. The biggest message I got was "pay attention!" Not everybody can --or should-- take their child to Mongolia. But everybody can try hard to understand and react to their child just as they really are, and that's what makes all the difference.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Compelled to respond to a reviewer above

Author: ynoel-2 from Spain
14 August 2013

it's slightly odd that i even feel the need to write this... it's about Mr 'rick James' review above.

I have nothing to do with anything or anyone in the film, or even autism. I guess I enjoyed the film, especially the Mongolian landscapes. What, on the other hand, struck me as I read that review was how simply deranged he sounded. Having serious personal issues is one thing, but not taming them and then going so far as to write such a pretentious review, wreaking of self-importance and instability like this one, is another thing. I guess I write this as I sometimes tire of fully grown 'normal' people, so clearly suffering from issues they choose to ignore, and who confuse their need to expiate personal venom with a 'review'. It sounds grotesque, and helps no one to understand anything about the film - more about the author's instabilities. In passing, I congratulate the filmmakers on a well made and touching near-zero budget film. We'd be so much poorer if we didn't have such people making these films.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An Incredible adventure

Author: gnaysmith from United Kingdom
20 August 2010

This story brings hope to all of us parents of children with Autism... It is honest and full of hope. Autism shouldn't mean that we can't have a life - it should bring us hope and adventure... The professionals who took part in the interviews for the movie did so with open minds. Temple Grandin is fantastic and makes me believe that my son can do anything he chooses if I can help him to do it - I have read all of her books too and to know that she was behind Ru and Kristin on this adventure is great. This book and movie changed my life and the lives of my partner and kids. Thank you Ru, for all you have done for us - you are truly inspirational and a very wonderful friend.

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4 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

From The West To The East

Author: druid333-2 from United States
19 October 2009

Rowan Isaacson is a four year-old boy,who has to live with a severe form of Autism. His parents are at wits end with his uncontrollable fits of screaming and crying and carrying on. During a walk with his Father (Rupert Isaacson),he bonds with an old horse,owned by their next door neighbour. Rupert gets the idea of taking his family to Mongolia to have his son healed by tribal Shamans (spiritual healers). It seems like the trip may be a failure from the start,but things begin to happen to Rowan (and the rest of the family,which also includes Rowan's Mother,Kristin Neff as well). First time director,Michel O.Scott (who also photographed & edited this documentary)went along to record the proceedings. The documentary video (shot on HD video)has some real nice scenic photography of the rugged,untamed countryside of Mongolia. We get to see some of the healing rituals of the tribal Shamans (which I really admired,as this culture is pretty much a mystery to most Westerners). This documentary isn't perfect,but still well worth checking out (my only two quirks I could have easily lived without are the occasional sojourns into toilet training,as Rowan had a real incontinence problem,which is rather graphically depicted on screen,plus the music score tended to feature some schmaltzy,New Age drone,rather than some Tuvan throat singers,which I would have much preferred). Not rated by the MPAA,but contains some brief strong language & some unnecessary gastric accidents from young Rowan that could have been left on the cutting room floor

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1 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Shameful exploitation

Author: Rick James from United States
26 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is not about autism, it is about selfish self-absorption of adults. The very idea that a mentally retarded child can be brought out of his delirium by a bunch of witch doctors with no scientific training and no verifiable results is ridiculous. One commentator states clearly it that these selfish parents fit a pattern of despair that leads those in this situation to resort to any extreme, and taking a helpless child to Mongolia to "cure" him instead of to a farm in upstate New York to meet animals is shameful and unforgivable. Why did they make this movie at all? Simply to conclude the exploitation of this helpless child. Forgive them.

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3 out of 17 people found the following review useful:


Author: Shobwinny Desplain from United States
5 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Happiness, love and understanding!

This film brings the beautiful message that the autistic can and will be cured by physical exercise. We all know it's true, and it is wonderful to see depicted in real life. The young boy's turnaround is nothing short of a miracle.

The boy rides the horse. He commutes with the goat. He speaks to the chicken.

You must take your children to Siberia. Autism, cancer, all will be cured by the horse and the goat. The chicken, not so much.

Scientology? No, Science: Totally.

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1 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

please correct the information on this film, it's Mongolia, not "Inner" Mongolia, a province of China

Author: mergen from United States
31 August 2010

please correct your information on this film, it's shot in Mongolia, not "Inner" Mongolia, a province of China. It's great that the Isaacson's can exploit their son's mental condition to make a movie, but spare us the New Age bull about shamanism. Both parents come across as so self-absorbed that it's no wonder that the kid has tantrums. I'm sure that the parents of children with mental disabilities must wonder how these unlikeable people get to perform for profit. Did Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Grinker and the other talking heads really know how silly this movie was going to be. Why did they lend their names and reputations to this?

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