Movie Review: ‘Dream Horse’

Director: Euros Lyn

Starring: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Joanna Page, Karl Johnson, Steffan Rhodri

Plot: A small town community in Wales pools their resources to breed a racehorse who goes on to compete in high ranking competitions.

Review: This is the kind of movie I struggle to write about. It’s a feel-good true story about good folk battling the odds and it is as such difficult to critique. It would feel mean. So instead I looked up the director to find out what his story is.

It turns out Euros Lyn has directed some of the best episodes of television of the past 15 years, particularly British television and I’m going to take a moment to highlight a view things. You might remember an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor uses a time-locked fireplace to dip in and out of the life of Madam de Pompadour, dealing with clockwork automatons. He did that one. And the one where that Doctor regenerated. Then there’s the episode of Sherlock with the teapots and Chinese circus. Did that one as well. He also did ‘Fifteen Million Merits’, the Black Mirror episode with Daniel Kaluuya. Lyn has a real habit of getting onto shows at their peak and helming their best episodes. Then he also worked on Broadchurch and Daredevil. This guy’s resume is bloody gangbusters.

It’s little wonder than Dream Horse successfully taps into the emotional core of the story rather than relying entire on quirky characters and small-town charm. Not that it doesn’t have that in spades, but it’s the emotional journey of our leads that makes it such an engaging movie.

Toni Collette is on top form – as usual – as Jan. Having been successful in breeding racing pigeons and other animals, she’s become uncertain of her direction in life. Her marriage is lacking passion and her husband has become complacent, she’s working minimum wage jobs and she’s caring for her unappreciative parents. It’s when she overhears Howard (Lewis) waxing lyrical about breeding a racing horse that she decides to form a local syndicate and put her experience to work. Along with Howard, Jan puts together a group of eccentric locals and they wind up with Dream Alliance, an unlikely champion in the making.

What makes the movie work is how well they capture the impact this addition has on their lives. Jan and her husband Daisy (Teale) both form a strong bond with Dream and it gives them a fresh perspective on their lives, and there’s some very sweet scenes between both them and the animal. There’s some very exciting race sequences that highlight the dangers and risks involved, and it’s nice to see the film not gloss over the brutality of the sport. We should probably note that our family has rescued and helped rehabilitate abused racing horses, and we have some strong feelings about the industry. If this was a glorification of the ‘sport’ that leaves so much pain and death on the wayside, we wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Focusing on the nastier aspects of the industry isn’t the point of the movie, but we’re glad it wasn’t glossed over.

If there’s something we would have liked, it’s getting to know some of the syndicate a bit better. There’s a young looking guy who we never get to know, and it’ll be nice to hear a bit of his story. Touching on where they all are in their lives, and how things have changed, is corny and cliched, but we would have enjoyed it. There’s a running visual of random horses wandering the streets, and flocks of geese wandering around the house, but they seem to disappear over the course of this movie.

These are small gripes, and they don’t take away from an enjoyable story about some real people who put themselves out there, took a chance and saw their care and compassion pay off.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN