Why did Alison Brie and director Jeff Baena decide to make quirky character Sarah a fan of horses in Netflix movie “Horse Girl”? Although the horse named Willow isn’t in the movie very much, Sarah’s connection to her is important, since she’s possibly the only creature she can really communicate with.
Unfortunately, Willow belongs to someone else now and Sarah only occasionally teaches students how to ride her. It’s clear that Sarah’s odd behavior — including making a custom lanyard for Willow to wear since it’s “both their birthdays” — is making her unwelcome with both the owners and the students.
As Brie told Uproxx, it was director Baena’s idea to make Sarah a “horse girl” after he remarked that Brie seemed like a “horse girl.” (She says she’s not, although that’s a “common misconception.”)
Once he suggested the horse angle, they both decided that it and the story of woman with a familial history of mental illness were “kind of one and the same.”
“I think it helped a lot with the story, and backstory, of someone that used to be a person of means and her youth riding horses was really the best time of her life, her happiest time, her safest time. And now she really doesn’t have that anymore. She still has a strong connection to her horse, but she’s unwanted in that space. It helped us portray this idea of isolation.
To me, in high school and middle school, horse girls felt mysterious. They had this other thing going on, they sort of existed outside of the social scene. With this character, we’re sort of exploring what would happen if she sort of lost that connection to her horse girl world, but she had never forged any real friendships or relationships. Where does that leave her now in her mid-thirties?”
Willow is also a key part of the mysterious ending: (SPOILERS)
Sarah, who’s convinced she’s an alien clone, dresses up like her grandmother, who always insisted she was from the future. She kidnaps Willow and walks her to the middle of a clearing. A white light engulfs Sarah and she floats up, leaving the horse behind.
Does that mean Sarah was really abducted by aliens? Brie, who cowrote the script, likes the idea. As she told Esquire, “I definitely believe in aliens. I’ve read enough stories now about people being abducted, and the through lines are amazing. I’m not a crazy conspiracy theorist, though. I’m a low-key conspiracy theorist, on the DL.”
And fans have pointed out that the movie itself subtly supports that theory. In the opening scene, as she’s chatting with coworker Molly Shannon, Shannon is distracted as a horse that looks exactly like Willow walks by in the parking lot. (Presumably having just been abandoned by Sarah in the future. And hopefully on her way back to her nice, safe stable.)