Indian Horse would have served Richard Wagamese’s story better as a miniseries

INDIAN HORSE (Stephen Campanelli). 101 minutes. Opens Friday (April 13). See listing. Rating: NNN 

The late Richard Wagamese’s novel about Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibwe kid who gets a chance to escape a residential school by playing hockey, gets a well-meaning but ultimately superficial adaptation, relating the events of the story but missing out on the resonance.

Director Stephen Campanelli (Momentum) and screenwriter Dennis Foon (Life, Above All) are clearly trying to pack as much of Wagamese’s book into a feature film as possible. But their approach renders most of the secondary characters one-dimensional, leaving actors like Michael Murphy, Michiel Huisman and Martin Donovan struggling to breathe life into bland expository dialogue.

The three actors who play Saul over some 30 years of his life – Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck and Ajuawak Kapashesit – are uniformly terrific, and the film does have its moments. 

But the story would have been better served at miniseries length, where we could observe Saul’s growth rather than just have other people notice it.

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