By Roger Childs
This highly entertaining movie is based on the true story of a foal called Dark Horse. There is no sex, violence or bad language in the film, just good clean fun. It is an unlikely, but ultimately inspiring story set in a down and out town in South Wales. Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) and her husband breed a horse they call Dream Alliance which has its ups and down but eventually gets to run in the Welsh Grand National. Some might call it schmaltzy, but the reality is that Dream Horse is a rattling good movie — 4.5 stars out of 5.
Taking the plunge
Jan has a rather depressing existence as do many of the villagers. Her husband hasn’t got a job and they have his parents living with them. So she not only works on the checkout at local Coop supermarket but also cleans the store in the evening.
She has no knowledge of horses and little money, but she does a lot of research and convinces other villagers to chip in a little money each week to buy a mare. She then pressures an English horse breeder to provide his stallion to do the honours to put the mare in foal. A beautiful foal is born, but sadly the mare dies.
There are many trips over the magnificent Severn River bridge which links Wales to Gloucestershire and the most important is to see if a well-known English trainer will take on Dream Alliance – called Dream throughout the film. He takes some persuading, but eventually agrees and Dream does well in his early races and goes on to takes part in some major steeplechase events.
A film with plenty of heart
Directed by Euros Lyn, Dream Horse is great entertainment and although there are darker moments there is also plenty of humor and excitement. Toni Collette is excellent as Jan and the rest of the cast from Wales, delights the audience with their Welsh accents. Collette’s own rendition is very convincing. The cinematography is great and the filming of the races Dream competes in is superbly done.
The Dream Alliance syndicate includes retired people, shopkeepers and people on benefits and they all play their parts delightfully as the fortunes of the horse draw the town together.
One of the individual highlights is the singing of Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins who give a superb rendition of possibly the greatest national anthem in the world — ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ (‘Land Of My Fathers’ in English). Of course the spectators at the racecourse and everyone back in the village sing along lustily with the passion of Welsh pride.
Dream Horse (113 minutes) is now showing at the Shoreline.