This beautifully mounted adaptation of Walter Farley's story for children tells the tale of Alec (Kelly Reno), a young boy touring the world with his adventurous salesman father (Hoyt Axton). While travelling back to the United States by ship, Alec discovers a wild, beautiful Arabian stallion being brought along in the cargo hold. When disaster strikes at sea, the ship sinks, and Alec and the stallion are the only survivors. Alone together on a nearby island, the boy and the horse develop a relationship; wary of each other at first, they learn to trust each other, and they become close friends. When a rescue party finally finds Alec, he refuses to leave the island without the stallion, and the horse goes with Alec to the small town that is his home. Alec's mother (Teri Garr) is at a loss about what to do with this remarkable but difficult animal. Henry Dailey (Mickey Rooney), an elderly horse trainer who lives in the neighborhood, senses a special connection between the boy and his horse; he's soon convinced that with the right training, and the boy as his jockey, the horse could be a champion on the race course. First-time director Carroll Ballard captures the mysterious relationship between humans and animals, treating the stallion with the same intelligence and respect as the rest of his cast; he also draws fine, understated performances from Kelly Reno and Mickey Rooney, and Caleb Deschanel's photography makes this a feast for the eyes. The Black Stallion is that rare contemporary family film that will fascinate adults as much as their kids, if not more so.
by Mark Deming synopsis