“A Horse for Summer”
Finding Forgiveness and Love
“When a family emergency forces a troubled teen to do the wrong thing for the right reason, a community discovers the meaning of forgiveness.” Kent (Dean Cain) and Teri (Terri Minton) Walsh and their daughter Sarah (Nicole Criss), 14, leave Los Angeles to try to live a more peaceful lifestyle in Arizona. The Walshes have dreamt of having a horse-boarding ranch and now they have their chance but unfortunately the state of the economy does not make it very easy. Kent unlike his wife and daughter does not find comfort in faith and tires to do what it takes while Teri and Sarah take refuge in the church and gain strength there.
Everything changes, however, when Summer (Mandalynn Carlson), Kent’s niece comes to stay with the family since her mother, Ava, has been arrested has been sent to prison. Summer has not had an easy time of things. She ran away thinking that life on the street would be better than being sent somewhere. She then is rescued from a dangerous gang and ordered by the court to stay with relatives until her trial is over or be put in foster care.
She not only has to deal with rules and respect but now there is the issue of faith and this is all new to her. When the family expects her to help on the ranch, she bolts and runs away. Her behavior does not help the family situation that is already very tense. But Summer finds something in taking care of Bella, one of the horses on the ranch. The horse gives her a sense of responsibility—the horse needs her. But then Bella becomes ill and the family that is already having financial problems makes the decision to use the little of money that have to save Bella. Summer, however, does the wrong thing even though the reason was right and the entire community rallies behind her and she sees that people care about her.
Summer did not plan on becoming attached to the horses but one horse, Bella, gave her what she longed for—a connection and a chance to shower attention on something else. The fact that Bella relied on her, made a difference in Summer’s life.
But all was not going well for the Walsh family—bills piled up and some of the clients who brought their horses to be boarded did not pay their bills and Kent even considers forgetting the family dream and moving back to the city and were it for an old friend wonderfully played by Sally Kirkland, he would have gone back to the corporate rat race. Both Sarah and Summer become aware of the financial problems and Summer, especially, is afraid that if the family moves she will sent to foster care. She wants to find money so the family can stay and she takes Kent’s truck and she and Sarah take off in the middle of the night. Then Bella gets sick and Kent and Teri decide to use the little that is left to save the horse and Summer announces that she has found an envelope with money in it that came from Bella’s owner and she gives it to Kent.
Of course that is not what happened at all and Teri gets a call from the pastor that the church has been robbed and Kent thinks that is where Summer got the money. I have given way to much information about the plot so I am going to stop here but will tell you that the film has a happy ending but we could guess that from the title.
This is one of those films that warms the heart and makes us feel good. Because we sense that everything will work out, we (or at least I) smiled throughout as I watched. There is something about a child being saving that makes us feel good. The cast is uniformly excellent—aside from those already named we have appearances from Christopher Atkins and Lee Meriwether among others. For a small independent film, this a large fine cast and reminds us that there are others ways to make wonderful films aside from the major studios.
I am never sure about films that use faith as a theme because they often come off as way too sweet. Here, that is not the case. Director Nancy Criss has done an amazing job with the film and everything works—from the music to the cinematography (of beautiful San Tan Valley of Arizona) to the plot. You might have to dry your eyes a couple of times but that is a good thing. When a film touches us, we know we have seen something worthwhile and “A Horse for Summer” is more than worthwhile. Make sure you look for it.