Film Review: “Black Beauty” is a Heartwarming Disney+ Film for the Whole Family

One of the best-selling novels of all time, Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse, gets a modern update that keeps the story and themes relevant for a new generation. Produced by Constantin Film and JB Pictures, this beautiful story comes to life in a brand-new way on Disney+ while remaining faithful to the tone of the original novel. Like the book, Black Beauty is told from the perspective of Beauty, gender-flipped this time and voiced by Oscar-winner Kate Winslet (Titanic).

The life of a wild black mustang horse is narrated in the first person as she is wrangled by ranchers and sold to a trainer named John (Ian Glen, Kingdom of Heaven), who ends up in he care of his orphaned niece Jo (Mackenzie Foy, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms). Given the name Beauty, the horse and Jo develop a special bond and a deep level of understanding. But when forces separate the two, they promise to fight to be together again someday.

Written for the screen and directed by Ashley Avis, the visual language of the production gives viewers a horse-eye view of the world. Breathtaking nature shots are used to establish Beauty’s natural environment, while scenes in captivity often use smoke or harsh rays of light to obscure the view, creating a sense of claustrophobia. As the horse opens up to Jo, the composition of the shots become more freeing as well. The filmmakers do their job well, delivering these cinematic tricks subtly, and it’s only upon reflection that you realize the brilliance at play.

The acting is superb across the board, but the combined performance of a series of well-trained mustangs and Kate Winslet really sells the entire film and makes this adaptation so magical. Mackenzie Foy delivers a human parallel to Beauty’s experience and her estranged relationship with her uncle provides another emotional anchor for viewers. With such a strong supporting cast, viewers will also be charmed by performances from Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Calam Lynch (Dunkirk), and Claire Forlani (The Rock).

Like the horse’s name, the best word to describe Black Beauty is “Beautiful.” The story itself is timeless with themes just as relevant today as they were when it was written over 150 years ago. It’s a heartwarming story perfect for the whole family that will connect you with nature and inspire you to become an advocate for the ethical treatment of animals in human care.

Premiering on Disney+ on November 27th, Black Beauty is a wonderful way to spend time with your family and loved ones. It’s a film that can spark conversations about its powerful themes and offers a perfect reason to use the Disney+ Group Watch feature to feel connected to your distanced family over the holiday weekend. A special film like this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

I give Black Beauty 5 out of 5 horses with silly names like “Merrylegs.”

Black Beauty premieres Friday, November 27th on Disney+.

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