Starts shaky with contrived teen attitudes, but improves and is moving
This is one of those super low-budget movies by indie filmmakers who want to take advantage of their beloved local region, like “The Legend of Tillamook's Gold” (2006) and “Falcon Song” (2014). The production quality of these flicks isn’t quite up to the standards of TV movies, which doesn’t mean they have no worth. You just have to be braced for a movie of this caliber.
These indies usually run anywhere from $50,000-$150,000, give or take, depending on how much was spent on cast, lodging, catering, travel and so forth. "Another Kind" (2013) was made for $120,000 and is a superb example of how a professional-class film can be made for this kind of micro-budget. Even spare-change flicks, like "A Bothered Conscience," which only cost $2300, can be effective if the filmmaker & crew are talented enough and make use of their resources efficiently.
So how does "Painted Horses" stack up? The classroom scenes in the first half hour are weak and seriously tempted me to tune out. The kids with attitudes lay it on too thick and come off contrived and unconvincing. Yet “The Breakfast Club” (1985) had the same problem and it was a blockbuster, so this can be forgiven. Thankfully, the movie improves in the second half as the teacher gets to know the students and they turn out to be human beings. A little bit o’ “Dead Poets Society” (1989) is naturally included in the mix.
There’s no problem with the main actors, that is, Madelyn Deutch (Ms. Hoog), Linc Hand (her potential beau), Deana Carter (Aunt Nora) and Tommy Cresswell (the principal); they all heartily rise to the challenge and give it their best. There are predictable elements but, nevertheless, I found the ending heartwarming.
The film runs 1 hour, 31 minutes, and was shot in Paris, Tennessee.