“Dream Horse” is a sweet little film with a feel-good story and a bunch of quirky-but-lovable characters. It’s a trifle of a movie that should please most general audiences, although it’s not a film that will stick in your memory for long.
That’s okay. Sometimes a mindless piece of fluff is just what the doctor ordered.
Based on a true story, “Dream Horse” is the tale of a woman working a dead-end job in in a small village in Wales. After overhearing a conversation at the local pub, she comes up with the wild idea to team up with her neighbors to buy a thoroughbred mare and then breed a race horse.
The fact that she doesn’t know anything about the high-stress world of horse racing doesn’t give her pause.
She, and her fellow investors, are only looking to have a little fun, and since it’s only costing them £10 a week, they are more interested in the experience than any financial payoff.
You may have heard of this story before from news accounts or a pretty good 2015 documentary called “Dark Horse.” Either way, there’s plenty to like in this story of a woman taking control of her life with this highly improbable dream. Who doesn’t love an underdog story like this?
That’s especially true when you cast Toni Collette as the central figure. She’s obviously an immensely talented actress, although I suspect many American audiences might have a wee bit of trouble with her Welsh accent. My mum is British, yet I had trouble understanding some of what was said here. Still, it’s never too difficult to sus out what’s happening, even if some of the dialogue is a challenge.
The rest of the villagers are also quite fun. They are a colorful bunch, adding a nice shot of vinegar to the story any time it threatens to become too saccharine-sweet. Then again, this is a PG rated film, so they never behave too outrageously. If this hadn’t been based on real people, I’d be tempted to call these villagers clichés, as they are absolutely the stock characters you’ve seen in dozens of previous Britain-based comedies.
Indeed, “Dark Horse” feels a lot like many of those previous (and better) films. Even if you didn’t see the documentary, it sure feels like you’ve seen this movie before. The screenplay is predictable and apart from the racing sequences, the direction is pedestrian. That means that the movie succeeds or fails based on the sports story success of the horse and the hopes and dreams of the odd village folk.
I’m happy to report that the horse racing story is well worth cheering and the human story is even better. I doubt you’ll be cheering long after you leave the theater, but for a quick bit of entertainment of a hot summer afternoon, “Dream Horse” might just be a dream escape.