“Dream Horse” is another of those: a film out of its time, as it were. It could have been released in about 1998, and if it had been, it might’ve played the Inwood for three months.
Toni Collette, star of the aforementioned “Muriel’s Wedding,” plays Jan Vokes, a bartender in a small Welsh town. She lives a boring life with her husband Brian (Owen Teale), a retireee who barely even listens to her anymore, and longs for something that’ll shake up her routine and infuse a bit of energy into her economically depressed community.
An experienced breeder of whippets and racing pigeons, Jan decides to breed and train a champion stallion. She gets around the considerable expense (they don’t call it “The Sport of Kings” for nothing) by proposing a collectivist approach: the costs of buying, feeding, and maintaining a couple of horses (roughly £15,000 a year) will be spread out amongst a dozen or so townspeople, contributing as little as £10 a month. After a not-too-contentious meeting of locals, it’s decided by majority vote that the horse will be named “Dream Alliance.” Jan’s partner in the scheme is an accountant named Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) who had, shall we say, a bad experience with horses, but is willing to, er, get back in the saddle? Sorry. I’ve resisted up till now.
“Dream Horse” is a dramatization of a hit documentary from a few years ago, “Dark Horse” (better title, IMO), and like a lot of fictionalized versions of true stories, this one tends to flatten out some of the idiosyncrasies and make things feel a bit more like what’d happen in a commercially viable art house picture that adult children can see with their parents on a Sunday afternoon. There’s nothing about this kind of film that is innately less “formulaic” than what you get when see a Marvel, “Star Wars,” or “Fast & Furious” movie; it’s just gentler and more human-scaled.
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