The U.K.’s answer to Secretariat might be this appealing against-the-odds real-life yarn whose mantra could very well be ‘It take a village to raise a champion.’
Dream Horse stars Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, and Owen Teale. It’s committed to the hopes and struggles of its main character, Jan Vokes, filled with a zest for opportunity by Collette (Knives Out). She’s a creditable lynchpin for the overall emotionality grounded well in a primarily comedic mood.
Director Euros Lyn captures the lush rawness of the Welsh settings with gritty textures into an enclave beset by economic decline. By toiling at two jobs (one a bartender at a workingmen’s club) Jan is inspired to become involved in thoroughbred racing.
Of course, this endeavor needs a ‘syndicate’ to thrive as an assortment of townspeople and make the colt – Dream Alliance – called Dream by Jan – an underdog that begins to have success on the track. Until a harmful incident causes the syndicate to take difficult steps.
The plotting by Neil McKay includes Jan’s unemployed hubby Brian, with Owen Teale endowing a momentum to a shaken dynamic enlivened a bit by Jan’s newfound aspirations. Also, a key player is Damian Lewis’ tax consultant and former horsing man Howard Davis who exudes plenty of empathy from the outcome of hi ventures on family.
The motley crew includes an imbibing Kirby (Karl Johnson, remembered from Hot Fuzz) not to mention chocolate connoisseur Maureen, endowed with quirky verve by Sian Phillips. Nicholas Farrell (Bloody Sunday) is the trainer Hobbs for the promising steed from an allocation by Jan and Brian.
The maudlin creeps into play without being overwrought in churning fashion, Lyn modulating the conflict while amusing interludes crop up. Dream Horse finds a way on its track (that has a respectable working-class sense in the ilk of The Full Monte and Bill Elliott) that uses the exiguous and pensive pretty well, even without more expected nudging from the filmmakers.
In a matter-of-fact snappy manner, a fairly realistic depiction of an equine milieu has a gladdening aura specially from an oncoming wellspring that makes a strife worthwhile. Although, owners and jockeys are really kept on the back burner and the excitement of the competition reflects budgeting restraints. But that emphasis can’t shade where its hearts is.