Based on a true story, this feel good film hits all the right beats, but lacks pace in the final furlong.
There’s a time and a place for films like Dream Horse. You have seen several like it before, though maybe not about a racehorse that rises against the odds to win the Welsh Grand National. But trust me, you have seen this kind of thing before.
Dream Horse is directed by Euros Lyn, with a screenplay by Neil McKay. The cast includes Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, and Owen Teale, so there’s plenty of talent on show. Story-wise, we follow Jan, a hard-working Welsh lass, holding down two jobs, looking after her elderly parents, and wondering about her current trajectory. Husband Brian has pretty much succumbed to a numbing routine of afternoon TV and wondering about his dinner, and life is sleepy and subdued.
Jan however overhears a conversation about racehorses and gets the wild idea to pursue a dream of owning and rearing her own horse. She begins a campaign to start a syndicate to pay for the venture, and we’re off.
So if you go into this movie with knowledge of the subject matter — it is based on a true story — then you will know exactly what to expect. Dream Horse is a rags to riches tale, and you pretty much get what you expect here. To go over the story seems redundant at this point. Instead, the focus is more on the characters that reside in this town, and their reactions to Jan keeping a horse in an allotment.
The characters that eventually make up the syndicate comprise a ragtag bunch including a local drunk old man, quirky older lady, and rotund butcher. They are never really fleshed out in any way, but they provide light relief when required. The leads are given more depth, and the performances are all delivered with the right amount of restrained melancholy to tug on the old heartstrings.
There is in fact quite a lot of that sort of thing going on. If you are looking for a quiet cry in a darkened room, this is the film for you.
Luckily it’s all done quite well. Lyn knows exactly what this story has to offer and never misses a chance to lay it on thick.
The racing scenes seem to be authentic, and I suppose if you are a fan of the gee-gees then you might enjoy a more close-up view of the race than you normally get on the TV in the betting shop.
Of course, the drama pretty much comes from the ups and downs, and genuine dangers, of the sport itself. However, the more harrowing scenes are kept to a minimum, only showing what is really required to get the message across.
Now come on film fans, have a guess at how this plays out. Think Rocky or Cool Runnings and I know you will probably guess exactly how this plays out, but the journey here is more relevant than the destination, so don’t go expecting any great twists and turns. But Dream Horse has its heart in the right place. If you enjoy this kind of story, you are in for a treat, and if you don’t, then just skip it.
Unlike Dream Alliance, the horse in question, the pacing sags a little in the middle. Subplots are littered around and touched upon briefly, but there are no real consequences to any of them, leaving me to think a lot of stuff was added to pad the whole thing out, but it’s hard to be really harsh on Dream Horse.
It plays out as a kind of fairy tale for grown-ups who like a punt, but there are some genuine moments that should warm the cockles of your heart on a rainy Sunday afternoon at around 2 pm — there’s a time and a place for this kind of film.