SXSW (Short) Review: EQUESTRIAN SEXUAL RESPONSE
When do children really take that first step towards understanding human sexuality? Love and sexuality must be a confusing thing to a kid, especially in today’s society where they’re inundated with images and language and ideas pertaining to the topic more than ever before. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, one question emerges… from where and how will children attain their initial understanding of these ideas and human emotions?
EQUESTRIAN SEXUAL RESPONSE addresses some of these general themes, written by Courtney Stephens and directed by Zeke Hawkins. The story is of a young pre-teen girl named Alice (Christina Robinson) who lives with her father (Scott Roberts) on their horse farm. Alice’s mother has left, leaving her father to raise Alice on his own, uncertain of exactly how to connect with his daughter and understand what she is going through as she grows up and begins to experience new things.
Aside from being a self-proclaimed vegetarian, misunderstood by her father, Alice holds great love for the horses. In particular, Alice finds herself fascinated by the relationship of mutual love she perceives between the mare named Molly and the steed named Red. She maintains a romantic interpretation of their love for each other, but when Red’s weak heart leads Alice’s father to breed Molly with another steed, her world is suddenly rocked and her perfect equestrian example of love is shattered.
Alice sees a parallel between her parents’ failed relationship and her father’s interference with Red and Molly’s relationship. Alice feels like an outsider, both at home and at school, uncomfortable with the other students’ increasing, albeit immature, exploration of sexuality. Christina Robinson’s performance is compellingly realistic, poignant and heartbreaking. She connection to the horses is evident by the way she naturally interacts with them.
The most successful element of EQUESTRIAN SEXUAL RESPONSE is how the filmmakers approached the subject matter indirectly. This isn’t a film about a girl talking to her father about the “birds and the bees” but rather a film about a girl discovering many of the realities of life on her own, while her father watches over her, struggling to understand what she is going through. Scott Roberts also gives a heartfelt performance, often relying effectively on non-verbal queues to convey his inability to fully empathize with Alice and help her through this difficult time in her life.
EQUESTRIAN SEXUAL RESPONSE is a product of the American Film Institute Conservatory, so it’s almost a given that the cinematography is sublime, provided by Martim Vian. The warmth of the natural sunlight is captured and utilized wonderfully while Alice is fully given over to her equestrian infatuation. Evan Scot Hornsby, provoking an additional layer of thoughtful depth to the viewing experience, provided the original music.
While the story leads the viewer to believe Alice’s heart is growing bitter, she witnesses a life-changing event that ultimately helps her to understand and move forward. EQUESTRIAN SEXUAL RESPONSE is a sweet and tender film that handles the subject matter of sexual discovery with tact and respectful insight, friendly as much to younger contemporary audiences as it is intelligent and original enough to satisfy adult audiences.