One of the things I like about movies is you get some slice-of-life movies and true stories about things most people haven’t heard of before. Those can sometimes be pleasant surprises on the release calendar. In the case of Dream Horse, it fits into both of these categories. It is one of those films that is just a delight and inspiring story people can get behind as well.
Jan Vokes (Toni Colette) is an average everyday woman who takes care of her elderly parents, works a couple of different jobs to make ends meet, and takes care of all her animals around her house. She sees an ad in the local paper one day and decides to buy a mare. She convinces some of the locals to invest in her plan which is to get the mare pregnant and raise the offspring and train him into a racehorse. The group is known as the Syndicate and includes her husband Brian (Owen Teale, Game of Thrones), a local tax man (Damian Lewis, Homeland), a local drunk, a barkeep, and a few other townsfolk all totaling around 15 people.
This story is a bit hard to believe, but it’s true. Some of the best stories usually are. These people were cast off and just going through the motions of life before Jan got them all involved in this venture. Some of them are skeptical about this investment, but they have nothing else going on in their lives so they reluctantly decide to pay the 10 dollars a week to be involved in this syndicate if you will. It’s not as much money as it may seem. It’s just like paying a bill every month you just put your money away every week.
There have been plenty of films in the past about horse racing. Secretariat and Seabiscuit come to mind. They both have great horse racing scenes in them. I can honestly say Dream Horse has some incredible horse racing scenes. The camera work is exceptional, to say the least. How they get the cameras so close to the horses is pretty amazing. The races are filmed in a way that makes them very dramatic and in the context of the film and story perfectly set. They fit very well into the film.
Even though this film is a true story, writer Neil McKay and director Euros Lyn create a lighthearted atmosphere with the script and dialogue spoken by the actors. It has a bunch of levity to it that breaks the drama. The funniest scenes help make this film more reliable for the average person watching it. This world of horse racing isn’t one for people without money. These people aren’t very well off. Putting them in this high-class world of horse racing is like a fish-out-of-water story in some senses. These scenes of the syndicated traveling to and from the races and at the races are comedic gold.
The cast is filled with a lot of character actors from Great Britain. They all have their moments to shine. This film mainly focuses on the relationship between Jan and her husband Howard and his struggles as well. Toni Colette gives the performance of the year thus far as this woman who is trying to find something to believe in and when she does it gives her a whole new lease on life. This horse brought out all the emotions in Colette and she shone as this woman. One scene in particular where she is very emotional about something that happened to Dream.
Dream Horse is a very inspirational sports film. It has a great message the people can get behind. It has great horse racing scenes with amazing camera work. The performances by all are very solid, but Lewis and especially Colette are the standouts. Colette gives an Academy Award-worthy performance, the first of the year for Best Actress. The real achievement in this film is its script and story. It is beautifully acted and the dialogue is both funny and heartfelt at times. This film works because of that.
Dan Skip Allen
Founder/EIC disappointment media