Dream Horse

 

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Popular entertainment hits its chosen target. 

 
Dream Horse
  

In 2015 I applauded a documentary by Louise Osmond which told the remarkable story of villagers from a Welsh community who got together to buy a mare. They then went on to become the joint owners of its foal which had a very successful racing career. The name that they chose for this horse was ‘Dream Alliance’ and the full title of Osmond’s film was Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance. What has happened now is that the appeal of this true-life tale has been recognised as good grounds for making it the basis of a new film. So that’s what we have here under the title Dream Horse. Being a dramatised retelling it is entirely reasonable to suppose that it will attract filmgoers who may be less keen on documentaries but are definitely in the market for a heart-warming movie of broad, popular appeal.

 

Despite that potential, such a venture could easily have been misjudged but, in the event, Dream Horse works very well indeed. It is helped enormously by the fact that the writer, Neil McKay, has recognised the extent to which this is a work that needs to retain the common touch. Consequently, the characters have been allowed to keep their actual names and are seen as ordinary people who, on acquiring a racehorse through a syndicate formed for that purpose, stand out from the many well-off horse owners. The gloss of fiction has not been allowed to take over in the telling and that is illustrated by the casting: the central figure here is Jan Vokes who is played by Toni Collette and, while she is on her best form, there is nothing of the film star look about her appearance (if she channels any actor it is Frances McDormand).

 

Shot in colour and ’Scope, Dream Horse does well by the Welsh landscape and proceeds to tell the story essentially as it happened even if the end credits claim that it’s a fiction inspired by real events and real people. The film takes as its central characters Jan (she being the one who came up with the idea of acquiring a racehorse), her husband, Brian (Owen Teale) and the accountant Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) who became a partner in setting up the scheme. Nicholas Farrell plays Philip Hobbs who was involved as a trainer, Joanna Page is Howard’s wife who questions his role in all of this while the others featured are mainly inhabitants of the village. The latter include old Kerby (Karl Johnson), who is played up for comedy, and Maureen, a presence thanks to the casting of Siân Phillips.

 

The ups and downs in the career of Dream Alliance provide the essential storyline. A few touches are probably additions to appeal to the audience since they include calculated suspense over the delayed arrival of attendees at the meeting to approve the scheme and extend to some extra moments of drama built around the main characters in the last half-hour or so (in point of fact Osmond’s choice of length, 86 minutes, was more apt than the 113 minutes of Dream Horse). Even so, this is a film that will appeal strongly to audiences, be they adults happy with a traditional-style movie or youngsters with an interest in horses. The director Euros Lyn, Welsh himself and better known for his TV work, has done a good job and Dream Horse is very ably edited by Jamie Pearson. On occasion songs heard on the soundtrack work well blended with the montage sequences which they accompany. Whereas the documentary incorporated ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’, this film less aptly today features a rendering of another Tom Jones song, ‘Delilah’, but this will probably not dismay the audience at which this film is aimed. Judge Dream Horse for what it is and there’s no need to hold back from the obvious phrase. It’s a winner.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Joanna Page, Karl Johnson, Siân Phillips, Di Botcher, Nicholas Farrell, Alan David, Lynda Baron, Steffan Rhodri, Anthony O’Donnell, Raj Paul, Peter Davison, Katherine Jenkins, Clare Balding.

 

Dir Euros Lyn, Pro Katherine Butler and Tracy O’Riordan, Screenplay Neil McKay, Ph Erik Alexander Wilson, Pro Des Daniel Taylor, Ed Jamie Pearson, Music Benjamin Woodgates, Costumes Siân Jenkins.

 

Raw/Ingenious Media/Rookery Productions/Popara Films/Film 4/Ffilm Cymru Wales-Warner Bros.
113 mins. USA/UK. 2020. Rel: 4 June 2021. Cert. PG.