How screwed up is America? In Annie Silverstein’s new film “Bull,” when young Kris (Amber Havard) gets arrested for breaking and entering and she’s offered a deal, she replies, “can’t you just send me to juvie?” The level of resignation that Kris, or other people like her in real life, must feel, is baffling. In Trump’s America, people like her who go through difficulties just shrug it off, hope for the best and buckle down, or, like Kris, look for the easy way out.
“Bull” undertakes an imaginative exploration of pain and struggle as borne by two very different people trying to stay above water in the deep of Texas. These are societal difficulties experienced by many in our country today, with these two people, representing very different aspects of our great nation: one is a white teenaged girl—the aforementioned Kris—the other a black man who is declining into middle age, Abe.
Kris’s mother is doing time for drug dealing. She lives with her little sister at their grandmother’s, the latter who does her best to ensure Kris doesn’t repeat her mother’s mistakes. Abe, physically-powerful but guarded and solitary, is a career bull-rider. His body’s starting to give in to the various injuries he keeps sustaining in the arena. Old age, disease and wounds have done a number on him, he’s one collapsed lung away from retirement. And what then? How will he earn rent money?
When Abe is away at rodeo one weekend, Kris, who lives next door, takes advantage of his absence and sneaks into his house with a bunch of friends to have a party, leaving the house a wreck. When Abe returns, dejected and diminished after a new injury has threatened his livelihood, he’s in rage, ready to press charges. Or else. Kris must agree to do odd jobs for him. She agrees. Mutual respect is gradually forged through the collaboration that ensues between Abe and Kris. Kris learns to accept performing hard and honest work and Abe lowers his guard, letting Kris in, sharing his insecurities and weaknesses with her.
“Bull” is a very enjoyable American drama that features understated but stirring performances.
“Bull” has won the Grand Prix at the 2019 Deauville Film Festival.