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Review: Indian Horse

April 13, 2018

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Based on the novel by the late author Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse tells the story of Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibwe boy who is taken from his family in Northwestern Ontario in the 1960s, and brought to a Catholic Residential School.

At the school, Saul is faced with abuse and is forced to give up his language and culture, but finds refuge from it all through the game of hockey, and is encouraged to play by Father Gaston (Michiel Huisman).  But as the years go on, Saul starts to experience PTSD and is forced to come to terms with the true atrocities of his past, which really begin to weigh on him as he gets older.

This is one of those decent and well-intentioned films that I really wish was better.  The story follows Saul at three different stages in his life, and the three actors who portray him – Sladen Peltier as a child, Forrest Goodluck as a teenager, and Ajuawak Kapashesit as an adult – all do solid work, each bringing nuance and a sense of emotion to their portrayals of the lead character.

But the production values of Indian Horse are somewhat limited, and the storytelling often feels rushed, making this a somewhat stilted project that would probably would have been better suited as a TV mini-series.  Still, the story that it tells is an important one, and if the film helps open more people’s eyes to the atrocities that have been inflicted upon First Nations in Canada, then that’s a good thing.

A version of this review was originally published during the Toronto International Film Festival.

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