If you want a great object lesson in how there are better and worse ways to approach a very similar subject, compare this documentary with this year’s Dark Horse. This variation on the underdog-horse-tale documentary deals with Harry de Leyer, a Dutch immigrant horse trainer who rescued a 10-year-old plow horse called Snowman who was bound for the glue factory, and turned him into a champion show-jumper. Director Ron Davis tries to connect the back-story of man and beast—characters of whom nothing was expected, playing in a rich man’s sport—while occasionally attempting to anthropomorphize Snowman. But where Dark Horse maintained a sharp focus on that connection, Harry & Snowman drifts towards other elements from de Leyer’s life—his childhood in Nazi-occupied Holland; the effect of his fame on his family; his career after Snowman’s retirement—in a way that seems to miss the point. In a perhaps-fitting bit of irony, Harry & Snowman tries to keep Harry in the spotlight even as his life, and this movie, prove considerably less interesting without Snowman in it.
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