I initially hesitated to cover this film, primarily because I expected a tear-jerker documentary that would use one elephant's tale to play on viewer emotions while condemning the ongoing use of elephants in circuses and zoos. Thankfully, that wasn't really the objective here, as the production team wisely kept a narrow focus on their star elephant's perilous but triumphant transition from circus performer to retiree. Unfortunately, Flora the elephant's tale is solely recounted by her primary caregivers, odd people who spend the entirety of their screen time anthropomorphizing Flora's every move, theorizing on what she's feeling and attempting to apply human psychology traits to her. Frankly, the film would have been much more effective with an impartial narrator rather than the nutters who surround her. By the time we learn that an elephant psychologist has diagnosed Flora with post traumatic stress disorder, the human participants have lost all credibility as sympathetic characters, leaving an unpleasant aftertaste to an otherwise worthwhile tale.
Flora the orphan elephant was adopted from Africa by U.S. circus owner David Balding when she was only two years old. According to Balding, she loved performing as a youngster, but as she progressed through her teen years and he reached retirement age, he realized that she was no longer interested in circus life and he would no longer be able to properly care for her. This leaves Balding with a huge problem: how to find a new home for an elephant. His initial dream is to return her to Africa to work in a safari operation, but eventually he gets cold feet when he realizes that he can't guarantee her safety there. There's also the little matter of his incredible attachment to the elephant, making any attempt to part with her a very painful proposition for him. When a zoo in Miami accepts Flora on a temporary basis, Balding is finally able to begin the separation process, but Flora later complicates matters by attacking a zoo keeper, instantly making her elephant non grata at the zoo and forcin