"Mom and Dad take six-year-old Rowan, whose jagged tantrums are best relaxed by contact with horses, on a riding tour of Outer Mongolia, to consult tribal shamans in the hope of untangling his mental blocks," writes The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton. "It's fun to imagine how 'The Horse Boy's' intended audience, the nontraditional-therapy crowd, would react to the film had the parents took Rowan to exorcists in papal Rome—just imagine a priest bringing up 'haunted wombs'!—but the Third World Otherness does wonders. 'The Horse Boy' may excuse itself as a 'raising awareness' tract on autism, but the exotic travelogue isn't a practicable care option for most cases, and it certainly isn't worthy cinema."
"Resolutely unvarnished...and astonishingly intimate, 'The Horse Boy' chronicles a couple in emotional and physical extremity," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. "Though experts are on hand...to tell us how little they know about autism, the film is not a primer on this heartbreaking condition. Instead it recounts a deeply personal, highly subjective and inarguably thought-provoking story of one family’s quest for a certain kind of peace."
Time Out's Keith Uhlich: "'The Horse Boy' comes off as both an edifying work of advocacy and an invasive home movie. Mostly, as with the thematically comparable (and superior) doc 'Praying with Lior,' the film gets by on the sheer adorableness of its subject."
"The film, narrated with humor and fervent transparency by Issacson, is graceful, fluid, and transcendent, both in its storytelling and in its cinematic language," observes Pamela Cohn at Hammer to Nail. "It obviously speaks to Scott’s background in dance in the way he moves his camera, placing himself in the center of an emotional maelstrom, waiting patiently for the impending miracle which may—or may not—happen. The miracle, however, is not the literal one that takes place between the boy and the shaman; it is the miracle of the connection with the unseen world around us."
"The strength of the doc is that is does not propagandize with a heavy hand," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Kevin Lally. "For both the parents and the filmmakers, the journey of 'The Horse Boy' was tough and utterly unpredictable, but their act of faith has produced a film that's surprisingly upbeat, evenhanded and imbued with wonder."
Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman: "In following the Isaacsons' journey, Michel O. Scott's documentary, 'The Horse Boy,' turns into a lyrical and stirring meditation on the mystery of autism."
"Some people's stories are so interesting that a book or a movie adaptation alone simply won't suffice. Sometimes both are needed. Apparently, Rupert Isaacson's is one of them," writes Slant Magazine's Andrew Schenker. "Everything about the project, which combines footage of the family's meetings with Mongolian shamans and interviews with autism experts, screams vanity project."
Read an interview with "The Horse Boy" producer and subject, Rupert Isaacson.
Watch the trailer for "The Horse Boy" on YouTube.