I hadn’t heard of this one and was a bit wary of it since it seems to be about rodeo, not high on my list of entertainments. But I really liked it. Set in a poor Houston suburb, it’s the story of 14-year-old Kris (first time actress Amber Havard) who’s living with her Grandma since Mom is in the slammer. She’s just trying to get by, but crosses the line one night, breaking into her neighbor Abe’s house. Abe (Rob Morgan – Mudbound, Just Mercy) is an aging rodeo rider who’s also just hanging on by a thread. But instead of sending her to jail, he makes a deal that she will work for him for a bit. What follows is a classic story of the curmudgeon who gradually becomes a friend, and a young girl finding herself through adversity.
The town where Abe and Kris live is a place with no future. And they both know it. Abe has had to stop riding and is making a living on the black rodeo circuit as a bullfighter, the dangerous job of distracting bulls after the riders fall off. But after he gets one too many injuries, his rodeo career looks like it’s come to an end. Kris is going nowhere and looking for a way out of her sad life. And when her pals start looking around for a place to party, she offers up Abe’s place knowing he’s always away on weekends. They trash the place and she gets caught. And so she starts doing odd jobs for Abe. He takes her along when he goes to a training session with some young men and she’s intrigued. And she talks him into helping her learn. It’s not at all an easy transition from the bad kid who invaded Abe’s space to the girl he wants to help. And Kris’s transition is not without its missteps. But by the end they both come out better for it.
Bull is directed and co-written Annie Silverstein who is definitely a young woman to watch. The story could have easily been more melodramatic, but it feels very real, from the pace to the visuals. Many of the actors are non-professionals and Amber Havard was found in an open call. I think we’ll definitely see more of her, too. She and Rob Morgan play off one another beautifully. I’d recommend this one to folks looking for a heartfelt story of connection. Just what we need in this social distancing moment.
Streaming on VOD.