Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

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Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
Wild hearts cant be broken poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steve Miner
Produced by Matt Williams
Written byMatt Williams
Oley Sassone
Based on A Girl and Five Brave Horses
by Sonora Webster Carver
Music by Mason Daring
Cinematography Daryn Okada
Edited by Jon Poll
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7.3 million

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken is a 1991 American drama film directed by Steve Miner. It concerns Sonora Webster Carver, a rider of diving horses. Gabrielle Anwar stars as Carver alongside Michael Schoeffling and Cliff Robertson. It is based on events in her life as told in her memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses . [1] [2]



Sonora Webster lives with her sister, Arnette, and abusive Aunt Helen during the Great Depression. She learns that because of her accidentally letting the cows loose and her suspension from school, her treasured horse, Lightning, has been sold and she will be placed in an orphanage. Instead, she slips out of the house during the night. She ends up at a county fair and sees a performance by Marie, a diving girl who rides a horse off a platform, and aspires to do so too. Marie's employer, Doc Carver, tells her she is too young but gives her a job as a stable hand due to her ability with horses, and she begins traveling with them. Doc's son, Al, wins a wild horse in a card game and Sonora names him Lightning. She later surprises Doc by taming and riding him, so he promises to train her to be a diving girl if she can mount it while it's moving, which she succeeds after multiple attempts.

Marie's regular horse gets sick, therefore Al decides to use Lightning in the shows. Sonora warns Marie not to kick him, but she ignores her and Lightning causes her to fall off and dislocate her shoulder. With her unable to perform, Al asks Sonora if she can do the stunts. Although she has never dove with Lightning, their first jump is successful. Marie becomes jealous, and as Doc tires of her diva-like behavior, she quits rather than share billing with Sonora. Al develops a romance with her that strains his relationship with Doc, and he leaves home after a particularly bad fight. He promises to write to Sonora, but Doc hides all his letters and she thinks that he has forgotten about her. When Doc and the new stable hand, Clifford, are away from the farm in search of jobs for the show, Lightning falls ill with colic. Al returns, and he and Sonora work together to heal Lightning. Doc hasn't found anywhere for them to perform, but then Al announces he has arranged a six-month contract to do so at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This reconciles Doc and Al, but then the former passes away of a heart attack on the way to Atlantic City, and Al assumes Doc's role as the show presenter. Sonora searches for Doc's jacket to give Al confidence on his first show, and finds one of Al's letters in it that confesses his love for her, and she lets him know that she feels the same.

Al proposes to Sonora just before a performance in front of their biggest crowd, which she accepts. The horse is a jittery stallion instead of Lightning, and he falters and trips off the end of the diving board after shying from cymbals crashing below. Not expecting it, Sonora has her eyes open as they land in the pool. Both are alive, but Sonora can't see properly. However, she hides this from Al, not wanting him to stop her doing the shows. She wakes the next morning to discover she is permanently blind from detached retinas in both eyes. She has to learn to find her away around, and Al is always by her side to help her. To avoid a breach of contract lawsuit, he must find another diving girl within a week, so he calls Marie, who returns. Meanwhile, Sonora misses diving terribly, especially as she has to stay home while she knows Al and Marie are out performing. She tells Al of her desire to dive with Lightning again, and they work together to try to train her to mount him again, but it proves fruitless and Al gives up. She spends some quiet time with Lightning that night.

The next day, Clifford locks Marie in her dressing room, and Sonora performs in her place with Lightning. Al shouts at her to come back down, but she continues and the jump is successful. Her voiceover tells you that she continued diving for eleven more years with the audience never learning of her blindness, and of her happy marriage to Al.



Upon the film's release, Sonora Webster Carver and her sister, Arnette French, watched it together. Sonora was dissatisfied with its embellishments and felt that it bore little resemblance to her life. [3] She told Arnette that, "the only thing true in it was that I rode diving horses, I went blind, and I continued to ride for another 11 years." Arnette said that the movie, "made a big deal about having the courage to go on riding after she lost her sight. But the truth was that riding the horse was the most fun you could have and we just loved it so." [4]

The film currently holds a 73% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 11 reviews. [5]

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  1. Holden, Stephen (1991-05-24). "Review/Film; The True Story Of a Girl, a Horse, A Diving Board". NY Times.
  2. Rainer, Peter (May 24, 1991). "'Wild Hearts': Bland Disney Family Fare". The Los Angeles Times .
  3. Kent, Bill (1997-05-04). "The Horse Was in Charge". New York Times.
  4. Kaushik. "The Diving Horses Of Atlantic City". AmusingPlanet.com.
  5. "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken". Rotten Tomatoes .