This thoroughbred racehorse movie from the U.K. gallops strong.
When it comes to movies about training horses (“The Black Stallion,” “National Velvet,” “Seabiscuit,” “The Rider,” “The Mustang,” among others), there’s a strong sense of spirit and love in both the humans and animals. They’re not cartoons when the animals have to talk; they’re live-action features where the emotions come within the neighing and running. And the humans are people with high hopes, personalities, and sincere feelings. That’s the case with “Dream Horse,” which knows the genre wisely and provides its strengths and weaknesses along the way.
The movie is based on a true story about Dream Alliance, a thoroughbred racehorse, bred by Janet Vokes and owned by the Alliance Partnership. Toni Collette stars Jan, and before we get to the breeding, we see her as a Welsh bartender and grocery girl. She decides to breed a racehorse, and so she buys a pregnant horse, and gathers her neighbors to chip in to take care of the expecting baby. The mother horse dies from child birth, but the baby horse, who is male, is strong enough to compete in the races. Jan decides to name him Dream Alliance, because this is their dream and they’re all in it together. And the members include her TV-loving husband Brian (Owen Teale), a tax accountant named Howard Davies (Damian Lewis), and the local drunk Kerby (Karl Johnson)
The movie is also able to sneak in some comedy regarding Kerby’s silly humor, while allowing the actors and their characters to have energy and positivity. But mostly, it’s dramatic and passionate. On the side, we’re able to see Jan’s connection with both Brian and Howard. The husband is unhappy about him having arthritis, which is why he sits in front of the TV, and Howard is trying to have the dream his father never had regarding the horse training. And Howard’s wife (Joanna Page) doesn’t want him to get consumed by this, because they want to avoid as much financial problems as possible, but eventually she comes around.
But the issue that takes the cake is when the horse-I should call him Dream to be more polite-gets injured during a race. The leg isn’t broken; it’s just wounded a bit, which is why Jan wants him to get the best treatment to avoid being killed (because you know the rules of a horse with a broken leg, unfortunately). But eventually, he gets back in the saddle again, or he’s back wearing the saddle again.
“Dream Horse” lacks the full throttle craftsmanship of “The Black Stallion,” but it isn’t concerned about becoming a masterpiece. it’s concerned about small dream transforming into something bigger. Colette does an impressive job transcending into the role of the real like Jan Vokes with her persistence and heart. Lewis is fresh as an accountant who talks big but wants to have a happier life. And Teale offers some humanity to his character in the case of there’s more than meets the eye. Meaning: he sits in front of the TV a lot, but he isn’t a bum, he has arthritis, as I’ve mentioned. So some fine performances here.
Director Euros Lyn is best known for directing episodes of such shows as “Doctor Who,” “Daredevil,” and “Black Mirror,” and he makes an impressive theatrical debut. And the screenplay by Neil McKay offers some strong sentimentality, regarding the horse and humans. I’m watching this movie with a certain kind of ease, because I want to see its true colors inside. It doesn’t take the easy way out by having those long sequences when the horse always wins. This may be based on a true story, but you still want to see its challenges, and it provides them. But it isn’t that strict, because “Dream Horse” races to the finish line strong.
Spoiler Alert: stick around for the end credits, because they’re fun.
In Theaters This Friday
On Demand June 11