Director: Euros Lyn
Starring: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Joanna Page and Owen Teale
Every so often a film comes along and picks up your spirits, takes your mind off the world and brings a smile to your face. 2021’s offering is Dream Horse a sports comedy/drama film from director Euros Lyn and screenwriter Neil McKay. Dream Horse tells the true story of Dream Alliance, a race horse that was bred by a syndicate as a bit of fun and ended up competing in the Welsh Grand National.
Even if you have no prior knowledge of horse racing, like me, it doesn’t matter. The film does a great job of introducing you into that world and even if sports don’t appeal to you in the slightest, you will be routing for Dream Alliance to win every race and wanting to jump for joy in the cinema.
The film is genuinely funny and it would be hard to find a single person who didn’t have at least a smile on their face for the majority of the time watching the film. Even though the running time runs at almost 2 hours, this flies by and by the time the credits start to roll, you will wonder where the time has gone.
The Welsh countryside and scenery is beautiful and is presented nicely throughout complementing the small and rundown town that the syndicate lives in. Rolling green hills compared to run down pubs and old houses that need some love and care.
Even though this is a feel-good comedy, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t substance beyond the horse racing. There are universal themes of loss and feeling stuck. There is even a good sense of the snobbery in horse racing as others look down on Dream Alliance and the syndicate. It’s not shoved in your face, but this film does deal with the snobbery alongside other issues, such as class and wealth division.
The cast do a fantastic job bringing the town and syndicate alive. Toni Collette stars as Jan Vokes, a bartender/cashier at the local Co-op, who is in a rut with life. After hearing Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) speak of his glory days of owning a horse at the club that she works in, it inspires her to take her knowledge of pigeon breeding and competing and translate it into horse breeding. Joining them are Owen Teale as Brian, Jan’s husband, Joanna Page as Angela Davies, Howard’s wife. There is even a small part from former Doctor Who Peter Davidson.
Every character, most are based on real people, are fully developed and you will care about them and their challenges, outside of the horse racing. If there is one thing that I think brings the film down, it’s that we don’t spend enough times with the characters. The film flies by and maybe a few extra minutes here and there with some of the side-characters would have really brought the film close to perfection. It’s a minor issue and for the most part the characters are vivid and you can’t help but want them to succeed in everything.
Through great performances from the entire cast, a well told underdog story and a full laughs Dream Horse succeeds in being something we all need from time to time, pure uplifting escapism.