The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - BULL | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD] - BULL

bull review
An aging rodeo bull rider takes a troubled teenage girl under his wing.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Annie Silverstein

Starring: Rob Morgan, Yolonda Ross, Amber Havard

bull movie poster

The thing that really blows my mind about America is how BIG it is. Spoon fed by the representations offered up by mass media, when I think of the states, I simplistically imagine the glass and steel of NY cityscapes, or the pastel-sunshine paradisos of California. Relatively tiny metonyms for an expansive whole, avoiding entire swathes of less photogenic land: the backwaters, the dead end towns, the liminal areas which are far away from anywhere happening, but which I would imagine actually make up the reality of a significant proportion of American experience. Inhabited by people like the tired, poor denizens of Annie Silverstein’s (co-writing with Johnny McAllister) superlative Bull for instance¸ which is set in a subdivision of Houston that has been all but abandoned by progress and prosperity. If you’re an in-situ adult there’s either the prospect of eking out a living on the has-been rodeo circuit (as Abe, played by the excellent Rob Morgan, does) or the inexorable draw of a life of crime. If you’re a kid there’s getting smashed off your head on booze and drugs, along with the same prospect of petty crime.

bull movie review

These are the options as laid out to our hero Kris (Amber Havard - so so so good), a smart teen who is going off the rails. You can see why: her mum is inside doing some bird, she’s being raised by a confused relative, and it falls to her to negotiate a path towards a future that looks twice as bleak as the meagre circumstances of her youth.

[ READ MORE: Dublin International Film Festival 2020 Review - The Truth ]

Seriously, it’s grim in these forgotten subdivisions. No wonder everyone is on Oxycontin. No wonder Abe is slowly killing himself riding about on agitated livestock for the edification of an ever-decreasing crowd (shades of The Wrestler, which will still make me cry, as did Bull several times). And, no wonder that Kris, in an attempt to impress the juvies who make up the town’s teen demographic, breaks into neighbour Abe’s empty house when he is off on tour bothering bulls to hold an impromptu booze party (Kris lies and says that Abe is her uncle, prompting this dialogue from one of the oiks: ‘your uncle a n****r, huh?’. Charming).

bull movie review

It all goes to shit, of course, and Abe returns to find his house trashed, his booze bottles empty and a hungover Kris asleep on his sofa. This in turn, through an act of humanity on Abe’s part (which this film, despite its dystopic setting, has in big beautiful spades), leads to an unlikely friendship between the two.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Run ]

Can Kris overcome the shabby, so-so patriarchal stranglehold of the rodeo world to become its new rising star? Can Abe recover his self-respect by coaching this clever, sparky kid? If only it were so simple. This isn’t the gleaming hills of Hollywood; Bull is set within the barren plains of Texas. Economic depression reaches like so much bullshit across the churned mud of the rodeo stadium, and Kris needs to make money, one way or another…

bull movie review

God, I loved this film. The uber-cool of Kris taking photos of her hard earned bruises in the same way that you or I would take a vain selfie; the neo-realistic pace which captures the heart-breaking boredom of small town existence; the beautiful touches like when Kris helps Abe with his hangover because she is so used to sorting her mother out when she’s in a similar situation (no, no, I’m ok, there’s just something in my eye, etc).

Following a series of shorts, this is Silverstein’s debut feature length film. How exciting to witness the breaking of a brand-new film maker, to be there at the start of her career. No shit, Bull is the real deal.

Bull is on UK VOD now and US VOD May 1st.

2020 movie reviews