(director:Euros Lyn; screenwriter: Neil McKay; cinematographer: Erik Wilson; editor: Jamie Pearson; music: Benjamin Woodgates; cast: Toni Collette (Jan Vokes), Owen Teale (Brian), Damian Lewis (Howard Davies), David Patel (Raj Paul), Peter Davison (Lord Avery), Joanna Page (Angela Davies), Nicholas Farrell (Philip Hobbs), Siân Phillips (Maureen),Di Botcher (Nerys), Max Hutchinson (James Lingford), Darren Evans (Goose), Alex Jordan (Johnson White), Anthony O’Donnell (Maldwyn), Karl Johnson (Kerby); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Katherine Butler/Tracy O’Riordan; Bleeker Street/Topic Studio Release; 2020-UK)
“An easy film to root for.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An inspiring racehorse comedy-drama taken from today’s newspaper headlines, that’s a crowd-pleaser and an easy film to root for. It’s based on the true story of the underdog racehorse Dream Alliance (as shown from his debut race in 2004 through the 2008 tendon injury that nearly ended his career), and is set in Wales.
Dream Alliance is remembered for his unexpected victory in the Welsh National steeplechase championship of 2009, as seen in Louise Osmond’s marvelous 2015 documentary “Dark Horse”.
It’s finely directed by long-time TV director Euros Lyn (“The Library Suicides”) and is plainly written by Neil McKay.
The film’s heroine Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) lives in an economically depressed village in Wales, working two jobs—days as a department store clerk and nights as a bartender at the local pub—while taking care of her ill gruff couch-potato husband Brian (Owen Teale) and her elderly mum and dad.
Listening to bar patron Howard Davies (Dominic Lewis), a Cardiff tax consultant, one night talk at the pub about people pooling together to buy a racehorse gets her thinking she could also do the same here. So she gets together a group of locals–an old age spinster pensioner Maureen (Siân Phillips), a barfly Kirby (Karl Johnson), a pedantic councilor Maldwyn (Anthony O’Donnell) and a bunch of other English eccentrics that include the pub owner and a butcher, to buy a mare called Rewball. She dies after giving birth to a super foal dubbed Dream Alliance by Jan. The strong stallion impresses top English trainer Philip Hobbs (Nicholas Farrell), who agrees to be the trainer.
The film forgets about the jockey, as it instead talks only about the colorful investors and how the winning horse changed their lives.
It’s a film for dreamers, those who want to believe that their dreams can come true if they take some risks. For one, it gave the idle Brian a new purpose in life and made him more cheery and easier to live with. It also gave the horse lover Jan a new lease on life, as she gets to exercise her true life passion.
It’s not a challenging drama, but it’s pleasant enough for a small-time gambler to risk a small wager on.
REVIEWED ON 5/31/2021 GRADE: B-