Dream Horse (2020)

Dream Horse
Director: Euros Lyn
Writer: Neil McKay
Cast: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Alan David, Lynda Baron, Karl Johnson, Steffan Rhodri, Rhys ap William, Carwyn Glyn, Siân Phillips, Joanna Page, Peter Davison, Katherine Jenkins, Clare Balding
Seen on: 27.7.2021

Jan (Toni Collette) works two jobs – as a supermarket cashier and as a bartender – and barely keeps herself and her husband Brian (Owen Teale), a former vet who can’t work anymore, afloat. Her life seems nothing but work with no perspective of that changing. When she hears a bar patron, bookkeeper Howard (Damian Lewis), talking about being part of a syndicate – a group of people who owned a race horse together – she gets an idea. She will raise a race horse herself – with the help of the people in the village.

Dream Horse proves that movie formulas have evolved for a reason – and that if you follow them well enough, the resulting film will deliver exactly what is expected of it. Will anything come as a suprise here? No. But you will be entertained by every expected turn nonetheless.

The film poster showing a race horse, with Jan (Toni Collette), Brian (Owen Teale) and Howard (Damian Lewis) and the rest of the people from the village cheering in the background.

Dream Horse is based on real events (there was also a documentary about it), though I don’t know how much things were changed in the dramatization. It feels like there must have been some changes because real life doesn’t tend to follow script-writing rules. But this film certainly does.

That means that every highlight and every low point can be anticipated by the audience as the film achieves being pretty much the essence of the underdog film. You could use it as a template if it wasn’t so obvious that it relied on a template itself. I’m not saying this to disparage the film. There is something being said for following a recipe down to the last letter – that’s what they are there for in the end, and usually the results are what you want it to be – and that is definitely the case with Dream Horse.

Jan (Toni Collette) and Brian (Owen Teale) giving Dream as a foal the bottle.

So, of course I teared up at the set-back and at the final win, even though I knew it was coming (and my 12-year-old niece knew it was coming, you don’t need to be especially movie savvy to see it). Of course, I rooted for the abrasive, but charming villagers who embark on their own bit of class warfare (I wish that the film had spent a little more time with that). Of course, I smiled at the guest appearance of the actual people whose story is being told.

Collette, Teale and Lewis are a wonderful, warm team at the center of the film, surrounded by a memorable supporting cast who are all utterly believable, albeit a bit stereotypical – but that fits with the recipe nature of the film. I definitely had a good time with it.

Jan (Toni Collette), Brian (Owen Teale) and Howard (Damian Lewis) and the other people in their syndicate cheering fiercely.

Summarizing: does what you think it does, and satisfies.

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