I was reluctant to go for the ride. I think movies about great horses cannot make great movies, even if they are very well done they only cater for a limited public: kids if it's mostly a fable, or connoisseurs if it's more of a true story.
Then I am no fan of Guillaume Canet. The lack of depth in his turf plus the fact that he envisioned the Jappeloup story as 'Rocky meets jumpers' really did not appeal to me. And even if I was crazy about jumping I would have had these many reservations.
Now Jappeloup has been cleverly crafted around the choices that rider Pierre Durand had to face, with the central paternal figure played to perfection by Daniel Auteuil. This is enough to tell an emotional story that peaks with every jumping show.
The seminal choice for Durand to leave his lawyer job to live his passion to the full is well timed, but emotion really lies with the father's simple and heartfelt lines. The father then comes on schedule to ease the stress while his son only appears as bland, more obstinate than really passionate about riding, let alone about his horse.
The groom character created as a proxy for the horse-rider relationship is not really interesting. It shaves a narrative challenge off the main character's shoulders, only making him look vain and passive before others - the groom (Lou de Laâge), his father, his wife (Marina Hands) - steer him in the right direction.
In the end, the mere succession of key jumping events starts to be too much, all the more so as the father is no longer there. And maybe the movie lacks Daniel Auteuil to deliver the final word, because in the end there is no sense of a lesson learnt. The journey was emotionally charged but the minute after we arrived it's all gone.
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