Horsing Around

An epic tale of love and maturity, with great performances and photography.

Based upon the classic work of Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses" is an epic tale of love and maturity, set in the post-war Southern Renaissance. John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) comes to terms with his changing circumstances and leaves Texas for a better life beyond the border in Mexico. After the foreclosure of his ancestral ranch and his grandfather's death, he picks up his backpack and travels due south with his buddy Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas).

After a while, they become acquainted with a rich Mexican ranch owner and work for him as a couple of cowhands to earn their way into the upper ranks. However, Cole is drowned by an insatiable desire and inevitably entangles himself with the don's daughter, Alejandra (Penelope Cruz). The disdain that stems from their illicit affair lands Cole into a lot of trouble and forces him to make a choice between life and love.

The film showcases the tale of one man who dared to oppose tradition and step into the wild south in search of a "Western utopia". However, the screenplay moves at a snail's pace and many loose ends seem content to bask in the realms of uncertainty. The film tends to emphasize only certain points and you can't help but sympathize with the character's situation, if not admire his complete honesty.

The director has pieced together a surprisingly diverse cast and made the film come together effortlessly. The billowing plains, the sprawling mountains and the sheltering blue sky are just some of the elements that contribute to the beautiful backdrop and make the film worth watching. The director's interpretations of Cole's and Rawlins' characters are potent and mildly humorous amidst a land of crumbling ethics and social codes. Matt Damon is evocative and very hillbilly with his characterization of John Grady Cole, while Penelope Cruz hits you like a ton of bricks in her glamorous role.

If you're in the mood for a thought-provoking drama, then you've definitely hit pay dirt with this one. The movie brings forth dreams of the Wild West, true blue cowboys and the traditional Western spirit underlined with a bright acoustic guitar.

This article was first published on 18 Apr 2001.