Exactly the type of film you expect it to be from its title, Dream Horse is a syrupy, stereotypically inspiring drama that embraces the underdog narrative – or should that be under-horse? – and runs (gallops) with it to no end.
Set in the mid-2000’s in a sleepy Welsh country town, Dream Horse places its focus on Jan Vokes (Toni Collette), a supermarket attendant by day, bartender by night who lives a comfortable, though settled life with her “retired” husband, Brian (Owen Teale). Overhearing the tales of racehorse-owning joy from patron Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) one evening, Jan decides to pull herself out of her monotonous funk and return to the glory days of animal-based championships – we learn she had previously bred award-winning whippets and racing pigeons – convincing a slew of locals to join her intended syndicate in breeding a champion horse.
Given that she’s done the research and asks permission from no man, Jan has more than made her mind up in this endeavour, and as much as the other syndicate members believe they have some sort of say – they all have equal shares – it really does come down to Jan when any decision is made, something the Neil McKay (TV’s Heartbeat) written script injects for convenience when Dream Horse is racing along with an agreeable temperament.
The horse itself, who they dub Dream Alliance in one of the film’s many sugary sequences, we’re told will have a 1% chance of actually winning a race, but there’s no film in the majority of that statistic, so it doesn’t take long for Dream Alliance to start proving its worth on the race tracks. Every dramatic obstacle is foreseen, and films of Dream Horse‘s ilk are never doused in overt tragedy, so the light at the end of the 113 minute tunnel is blindingly bright. Ultimately though, if you’ve committed to seeing this type of film – and you know exactly what type of film this is – you have no cares pertaining to its predictable, sunny nature.
Collette, with her sensible wig and Welsh accent, pulls the film along at every given moment, so even when you’re perhaps getting a headache from its saccharine nature, her wholly committed tone is likely to provide something of a reprieve. There’s montages, expected freeze-frames, and a “Where are they now?” epilogue all for good measure, with director Euros Lyn (TV’s His Dark Materials) making sure to not miss an expected beat when it comes to the eye-rolling tropes of a film that practically revels in its unsurprising nature. I mean, it’s called Dream Horse, what else could you possibly expect?
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Dream Horse is screening in Australian theatres from June 10th, 2021.