The documentary Buck follows itinerant horse trainer Buck Brannaman as he applies his uniquely humane and frankly astounding methods in four-day clinics around the country. If that sounds as exciting as watching hay turn yellow, director Cindy Meehl finds the real story in Brannaman's fractured past as a child celebrity trick-roper who, along with his older brother, Smokie, was systematically abused by their alcoholic father. Despite these odds, Brannaman grew into a preternaturally gentle adult who channels hard-earned patience and compassion into his work. Meehl gets candid comments from Brannaman's associates and childhood friends, as well as Robert Redford, who employed the horseman for The Horse Whisperer. Lest Buck get too clubby and touchy-feely for its own good, Meehl closes the film with a raging, haphazardly reared colt even Brannaman can't reach. It's a subtle and harshly evocative reminder of how differently his life could have turned out. (NR) MARK HOLCOMB

Sat., Jan. 21, 4:45 p.m., 2012

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