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Review: Bull

— by BEV QUESTAD —

Has the bull ever lost in a bull-riding contest?

There is absolutely no record showing a bull-rider out-riding the bucking bull. “Bull,” a double-entendre for this surprising film, is about a 14-year old girl named Kris who is determined to be a professional bull-rider. But “Bull” also represents Kris herself, determined to kick off the baggage that has compromised her life.

It all implausibly starts out with Kris detachedly discarding a mangled chicken from the clutches of her Pitbull’s jaws. She has no plans to ever be a victim. Her little sister is upset, but Kris, her sister’s stable surrogate parent-figure, exhibits her calm understated character as she methodically disengages the two animals, one a sorry loser.

Not long into the film, this marginalized, quiet, slump-shouldered girl invites a group at school she would like to be friends with to join her in breaking into a neighbor’s home. They ravage the place, drink all the liquor, bring chickens in (that’s right, the mangled chicken came from this property), and basically ruin the place.

The owner arrives home unannounced and catches Kris. He reports the incident to the police who drag the girl and her custodial grandmother to face the accuser. The grandmother pleads mea culpa and asks what they can do to keep Kris from going to jail. After all, her mother’s in prison and this kid might still have a chance.

As it turns out, the neighbor is even more marginalized than Kris. He is an aging African-American bull-rider who in his last days acts as a costumed decoy in the ring. He is poor and seriously injured from repetitive accidents in the ring. He responds to Kris’s grandmother by offering to drop the charges if Kris cleans up the damage to his house.

How this nearly silent young girl falls into the pit of depravity and illegal activities and then rises is the story of a determined bull bucking off the unwanted. Her neighbor, charismatically handsome Rob Morgan, is the only one who appears to understand that by using sheer guts and determination Kris can rise up to be independent and strong.

Annie Silverstein, an award-winning filmmaker from the get-go, is the director, teaming up with her husband, Johnny McAllister, to write this new kind of screenplay where the actors seem to be simply playing themselves. Silverstein has stated that the film is about “finding your place in the world” and “female incarceration where four out of five are mothers.”

The acting by newcomer Amber Havard appears especially unaffected and understated, making her appear to actually be the character she portrays.

Acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival and winner of several awards, “Bull” was picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films for distribution.


“Bull,” which was originally set to open in theaters in March, will be available for rent and purchase on all major VOD platforms beginning May 1, 2020.


Credits

Director: Annie Silverstein
Writers: Annie Silverstein and Johnny McAllister
Producers: Monique Walton, Bert Marcus, Heather Rae, Ryan Zacarias, and Audrey Rosenberg
Executive Producers: Cassandra Thornton, Johnny Mcallister, Jess Jacobs, and Sandhya Shardanand
Cast: Rob Morgan, Amber Havard, and Yolonda Ross
Release Date: May 1, 2020

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