Given recent weather patterns hereabouts, and the repetitive outdoor-chore obligations they've inevitably created for local folks, it might seem a bit risky -- foolish, even -- to recommend a TV movie that's basically about shovelling snow.
But in the spirit of the spirit of the season, here goes:
The Horses of McBride is a lovely, well-crafted and beautifully performed yarn that's perfect for family viewing during the festive season.
It has beautiful scenery. Small-town charm. Horses. Heroic humans. Pluck. Verve. Grit. A pure, simple expression of the unselfishness and generosity to which we all aspire during the holidays. Oh, and snow. Lots and lots of deep, drifted snow. But the beauty of this movie, even if you're sick to death of clearing your own sidewalk, is that you get to watch somebody else shovel it.
The Horses of McBride, which airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on CTV, is a tale of perseverance inspired by actual events that occurred near the northern British Columbia town of McBride just before Christmas 2008. After local snowmobilers discovered a pair of horses trapped in deep snow high up on the mountainside, starved and nearly frozen, townsfolk mounted a massive effort to hand-dig a trench to allow the animals to be led down to safety.
In this charming dramatization of events, the horses are discovered by father and son Matt and Kenny Davidson (Aidan Quinn, Edward Ruttle) during a trip up the mountain to rescue some stranded snowmobilers.
Their first inclination is to put the animals out of their misery, but after daughter Nicki (MacKenzie Porter) visits the site of their snowy prison, she's able to convince her father to try to figure out a way to save them. A veterinarian assesses their condition and declares them too weak to be airlifted out; again, putting them down is discussed, but defiant Nicki says she intends to dig a path -- which would have to be nearly three kilometres long -- to allow the horses to make their way to a nearby logging road.
Matt, perhaps burdened by the guilt of having just told his kids that hard financial times are about to force him to sell the family's cowboy-outfitting business and take a job in nearby Prince George, grabs a shovel and helps Nicki begin her unlikely effort.
Thanks to a visit from an aspiring TV producer (Greyston Holt) who also happens to be Nicki's reconnection-minded ex-boyfriend, word of the father/daughter rescue effort starts to spread -- first locally, prompting a wave of shovel-wielding helpers to head up the mountain, and then nationally, as bigger media outlets spread the word and support, both financial and in pure manpower terms, floods in.
The Horses of McBride is a necessarily sentimental story but it never becomes overwrought or cloying; it takes full advantage of beautiful mountainscapes and receives well-measured and seamlessly likable performances and from Quinn, Porter and Matchett.
As for the incessant snow shoveling -- well, it turns out that it's hardly as annoying when experienced as a spectator sport.
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The Horses of McBride
Starring Aidan Quinn, MacKenzie Porter and Kari Matchett
Sunday at 7 p.m.
4 stars out of 5