Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 53 minutes, Director – Euros Lyn
The members of a small Welsh village unite to raise and train a race horse.
There’s a mild, warm smile that forms on your face as things begin to come together for the small, Welsh village of Cefn Fforest. It’s one of slight wonder as their small dreams of owning and training a race horse are seen escalating into ecstatic successes. As the group throw their initial contributions to the fund into the ring bar owner Gerwyn (Steffan Rhodri) states “if there’s gonna be a circus in town, may as well have a ringside seat”. Which is very much what the viewer gets as the ‘based on a true story’ events of Dream Horse play out.
For the most part we follow shop employee by day, bartender by night Jan (Toni Collette). Along with her husband, Brian (Owen Teale) she tends to a number of injured animals that reside near to her home, mostly ducks. She trudges each day in the same circle of events through a seemingly half-abandoned village. The clock appears to have been stopped a long time ago amongst the grey scenery and graffiti. Looking for more excitement she makes the decision, spurred by a conversation she overhears involving former race horse owner Howard (Damian Lewis) to breed a race horse. She’s told repeatedly that this is likely to be an easy disaster, a waste of money that could put her into even further financial ruin. However, with Howard’s eventual help and the gradual formation of a syndicate involving the various members of the town Dream Alliance becomes a big part of the lives of the members of the village, and an even bigger dent in the profits of the local betting shop.
Within the fairly conventional markings of the Brit-com narrative there’s a quietly engaging nature to Dream Horse. Amongst the mild-chuckle inducing humour created by the various characters that pop up – Karl Johnson’s village-drunk Kirby is certainly an entertaining highlight – there’s also a fair deal of effective race sequences. It’s perhaps these moments that truly show your involvement with the film. While not anything particularly tense you certainly find yourself willing the figures on scree, and their horse, on; wanting to see them succeed. As they battle with richer horse owners – including Peter Davison’s (a presence very nice to see) Lord Avery – who doubt and then try to buy the efforts of the close community, tensions somewhat raise within the syndicate when it comes to arguments about what happens to the horse, what brings money in the moment and more.
It may have its clichés and predictable elements, but thanks to the performances that line the piece and the generally quaint line that the narrative travels across it forms a light connection with the viewer through the more entertaining character beats and quirks of the screenplay. The cast themselves appear to have had a good time making the film while still wanting to tell a good story and that comes across in the tone and overall effect that Dream Horse has. It’s an entertaining Brit-com with a fine cast that help get across the humour to put it a stride or two ahead of the rest of the pack.
It might have its clichés and conventions, but Dream Horse has a fine cast that help bring about much of the character based humour that engages you within the quietly entertaining nature of the film.