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Review: Dream Horse

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The release of Dream Horse like so many other films was postponed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. As a feel-good drama, it might be a nice tonic to lift your spirits. Set and filmed in Wales, there’s a strong Welsh pride that permeates the film. From the cast’s strong welsh accents (Australian Toni Collete does a remarkable job) to the prominent product placement of Welsh goods and culture, however, as things stand Wales is now reluctant to encourage visitors. The setting helps the film stand out from the genre of common people banding together to achieve a dream, based on the true story of a co-operative that funds a winning racehorse bringing joy (and a modest return on investment) to the group.

Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) is bored in her day-to-day life of wales working as a cashier in a Co-op until she overhears Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) boast about his last racehorse in a pub – keeping quiet about the fact it almost bankrupted him. Feeling they both have the same passion for horses as she does, she convinces him to form their own co-operative to share the risk. They team up with local villagers and breed their own champion. The ensemble cast is large yet all the members feel distinct in their quirks, but the focus is firmly on Jan and Howard. Howard works in finance by day and similarly feels like he is in a dead-end job, but keeps his passion secret from his family worried if they find out he is involved with a racehorse again and the possible debt.

As interesting as the ensemble cast is, this is firmly Toni Collette’s film. She carries the film with her believability and determined face. Even though the film is called “Dream Horse”, the horse (which is named Dream) is hardly in it. Dream Horse is almost a McGuffin, becoming a catalyst for change in the small welsh town. Jan leads a monotonous life, but with the horse, she isn’t transformed but she is happier and more focused. Her passion for Dream is what wins over the other villagers, each agreeing to pay £20 a week to finance the horses training and entering into the races, although initially Dream is brought up on an allotment plot.

With such a large cast and multiple plot points it’s lucky the film is handled by such an experienced direction. The film is directed by Euros Lyn, who has mainly worked in television, including the acclaimed Black Mirror episode “Fifteen Million Credits,” as well as episodes of Doctor Who, Broadchurch and His Dark Materials. It is an impressive CV and the film is as you might expect, shot well. Annoyingly it is the sequence just before the credits roll that Euros stretches his artistic muscles. The final sequence is so disarmingly impressive that it does take away from the film you just saw. Dream Horse has so much plot to take liberties with, that Euros has to squeeze it all in and gives it its due before moving on so there isn’t any space for experimentation. Dream Horse is inoffensive, middle-of-the-road fun, just the sort of thing most people might want right now.

Dream Horse is in UK cinemas on 4th September 2020.

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