After receiving rave reviews from its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2020, Dream Horse was to be released in the United States on May 1 of that year, but fell victim, as so many other films, to the COVID-19 pandemic and was postponed. But now, with more restrictions being lifted, the film is quietly entering theaters this weekend and it is a good one to see if you need another excuse to get out of the house. Or even if you don’t.
Directed by Uros Lyn, this mildly comedic film is based on a true story about an unlikely racing horse and his unlikely alliance of supporters. Taking place in Cefn Fforest in South Wales (yes, it is a real place), Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) is just surviving working two jobs working at a local grocery store during the day and tending bar at workingmen’s club at night. Her husband Brian (Owen Teale) isn’t having a much better time. Unable to hold down a job, he spends his days watching the “telly” and together the two are taking care of her elderly parents. It wasn’t always like this. Jan has won awards raising rabbits, whippets and pigeons and her husband, according to her, once had a lot more fire within him.
One night at the club, Jan meets Howard Davies (Damian Lewis), an arrogant know-it-all talk about his time serving as part of a syndicate (a group of people) who once owned a racehorse. Inspired by his tales, Jan decides this is path she too wants to take. While Brian isn’t impressed with the idea, he is supportive of his wife when she brings home a mare in hopes of breeding it and enter the world of horseracing.
To help with this task, Jan reaches out to many people in town and surprising, 23 of them show up to contribute ten pounds a week each to join the new syndicate. There’s the town drunk, the local butcher, the elderly woman whose only joy in life is eating chocolates, etc. Each of them living simple lives just wanting a little more. Wanting to find a purpose or task that they can be proud of.
Soon, a foal is born and the group decides to call him Dream Alliance since they are an alliance and this horse in their unified dream. And wouldn’t you know it, despite everything working against this group, Dream shows some promise and before you know, the group is literally off to the races.
Dream Horse isn’t flashy nor is it hilarious, but it is a good, inspiring tale of how an unlikely group of people decided to follow their dreams regardless of how silly or unrealistic they seem to be. It’s pretty squeaky clean, but it isn’t really a family movie. What it is, is a nice piece of storytelling told in an understated way. Perhaps if this British film were made in America, it would have starred a more beautiful cast, the comedy would have been broader and the story would have become much more unbelievable. Instead, the actors look and act like real people with wrinkles and bad teeth.
Not surprisingly, Collette headlines the film and leads the way, but she doesn’t overshadow the others or make it “her” movie. It’s an ensemble production where every role is important no matter how small. Just about every character here has a moment or two to shine and in the end, you’ll find yourself smiling. Sure, you’ll probably forget about this movie in a day or two, but for the time being, this gentle tale is just what we all need right now.
Main image: Owen Teale, Toni Collette and Damian Lewis in Dream Horse. (Kerry Brown/Bleecker Street)
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