A gritty tale of love, ambition and addiction, “Horsey” has enough verite and energy to make some noise in specialized release. Emotionally raw and technically spare, the ultra-low-budget drama is a kinetic experience with the potential to hit a nerve with both youthful filmgoers and a more seasoned arthouse crowd. Strictly for the niches, the picture should make sufficient noise theatrically to spur a good second wave on pay TV and cassette.
Grounded by a charismatic performance by Holly Ferguson, film chronicles the topsy-turvy life of Delilah Miller. The working-class heroine is in the throes of indecision: Sexually confused and ambivalent about pursuing a career as a painter, she’s looking for an anchor in her life.
In the tradition of smart-women-dumb-choices, she grabs hold of self-centered, self-destructive rock musician Ryland Yale (Todd Kerns). She imagines him as a nurturing kindred spirit. But the romance is short-lived, and his image as a rebel dissolves when it’s revealed he comes from a wealthy family and was pampered and indulged as a child. Ryland is exactly what Delilah doesn’t need. He’s possessive, energy-draining and undependable. And for good measure, he’s a heroin addict.
The film’s great strength lies in detailing Delilah’s desperate need for an emotional center. She clings too long to Ryland, hoping he will provide love he doesn’t have. Though she never truly gives up on him, the young woman turns to friends, a former female lover (Victoria Deschanel) and even Jesus to get her back on track. Finally, she comes to the realization that outside stimulants aren’t the solution.
Writer-director Kirsten Clarkson has a shrewd sense of where to put the emphasis when making a no-budget movie. Her grasp of the music and art scene is a real asset to the texture of the piece, and helps smooth over rough spots in the narrative flow.
Ferguson is “Horsey’s” other ace, a compelling, sympathetic presence with real star potential. The relatively inexperienced cast is admittedly unpolished, but — as with other elements of the film — powerfully authentic.