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"DREAM HORSE"
(2021) (Toni Collette, Damian Lewis) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: Residents of a small Welsh town band together and hope the horse they've bred and raised can become a racing champion.
PLOT:

In a small Welsh town, Jan Vokes (TONI COLLETTE) works at both the local grocer and the neighborhood pub owned by Gerwyn (STEFFAN RHODRI). It's at the latter where she overhears a racehorse owner talk of his profession and gets the idea that she could do the same. Much to the initial confusion and dismay of her husband, Brian (OWEN TEALE), Jan buys a cheap mare with the intent of using her to breed a racehorse.

Needing additional money for the related costs, she proposes to her neighbors that they form a syndicate where everyone chips in and co-owns the horse and will evenly split any future earnings. Older bar regular Kerby (KARL JOHNSON) is in, as is tax adviser Howard Davies (DAMIAN LEWIS) who hates his job but doesn't inform his wife, Angela (JOANNA PAGE), of his investment.

Others join as well, and once the breeding results in a colt they name Dream Alliance, they hire trainer Philip Hobbs (NICHOLAS FARRELL) to see if the horse has what it takes. With a come-from-behind victory in his first race that he wins, it's then off to other races as the team hopes he can make it to and possibly win the Welsh National.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

As someone still in the workforce, I often wonder what retired people do day in and day out. Sure, I hear them say they're keeping busy doing this and that, but many people feel lost -- at least early on in retirement -- without a regular job. In fact, I have a friend who retired a few years back, ended up hating it, and started up a new business that's now flourishing and expanding.

The point of all of that is you need a reason to get up and function in the world, but that's just as true for those who find their employment meaningless as those who've left the 9 to 5 rat race. That's what the protagonist of "Dream Horse" states at what one point in the entertaining, feel-good dramedy that just so happens to be based on a true story.

I have no idea if the real Jan Vokes actually said that. But her character in this film -- as played by the sublime Toni Collette -- does and uses that as part of the reason she buys a horse with the intent of breeding a race-ready offspring in her small Welsh town where she works in the local grocery as well as the neighborhood tavern.

It's in the latter that she overhears a patron talk of being a racehorse owner and with her experience with other -- and decidedly smaller and less costly -- critters, she figures she can do the same. She doesn't even ask her husband, Brian (Owen Teale), if it's okay with him. But she does offer the townsfolk a piece of the action if they buy into her co-ownership syndicate where everyone ponies up -- sorry, couldn't resist -- an entrance fee to cover the breeding and other related costs.

Most of the eclectic locals -- from old bar regular Kerby (Karl Johnson) to cubicle working tax advisor Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) -- jump at the chance since they likewise figure they could use purpose or at least a little excitement and diversion in their lives.

What follows -- as written by Neil McKay and directed by Euros Lyn -- is fairly predictable and formulaic, down to the third act obstacles that arise to add some additional drama to the mix. That's true even if you don't know anything about the real story or the breeding, raising, training, and competing of racehorses in general.

Yet, it's also charming, enjoyable, and easily accessible for the masses likewise looking for a fun underdog (or horse, and townsfolk) story as well as a distraction -- if only of the slightly less than two-hour variety -- in their lives. While it can't keep up with the best racehorse films, it nonetheless crosses the finish line in a winning fashion, thus meaning that "Dream Horse" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed May 9, 2021 / Posted May 21, 2021


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