A small Welsh town chips in to sponsor a racehorse that becomes an unlikely champ in this heartwarming drama that’s based on a true story. It’s reminiscent of “The Full Monty,” but with a long-shot racing horse instead of home-town male strippers.
Toni Collette stars as animal-loving Jan, who grew up competing in dog shows, but is now working two dead-end jobs, one as a bartender and one as a checkout cashier. When she hears posh Howard (Damian Lewis) at the bar boasting about the race horse he once owned, she pours herself into her new hobby. After ample research, she decides that since she can’t afford to buy a winning race horse, she’ll breed one.
She and her husband (who reluctantly goes along) can afford a mare and they pin their hopes that, with the right sire, she’ll give them a champ. This working-class couple is met with raised eyebrows from the elite horsey set, but Jan won’t be dissuaded.
She even comes with a plan to fund the care and training of the foal: She asks the townspeople to invest in the horse: Soon, more than a dozen people join in, from the town drunk to the butcher to the nit-picky neighbor who criticized every step of them bringing Dream’s mother onto their property.
Howard, who’s given up horses and taken a boring job in finance, sees this as his chance to get back to the track as well.
When the horse is born, they decided to name him Dream Alliance. The trainer they take him to (Nicholas Farrell of “Chariots of Fire”) doesn’t see any promise in the skittish horse at first, until he finds his feet. And then he’s literally off to the races.
While the movie can definitely be described as “feel-good,” there are a few bumps in the road to a happy ending. And it has more than its share of sadness, although two of the saddest moments happen off-screen.
It’s great fun to watch this ragtag bunch crash the elegant owners’ clubs and to see Dream defy expectations at race after race. And for Jan, Howard and everyone else invested in Dream to experience the thrills of victory.
Since Dream is a group project of sorts, when he has a serious setback, no one can agree whether to let him keep racing or not.
It is nice to see Collette in a less intense role than, say, “Heredity.” And to see her screaming with happiness instead of terror.
In the end, despite the hard knocks it delivers, it’s a film that should bring a smile to your face.
Although the film is set in the UK, it does have the blessing of the American Humane Society and the standard “no animals were harmed” accreditation. The horses in the film were supplied by The Devil’s Horsemen, who also provided horses for “Game of Thrones” and “The Crown.”
“Dream Horse” is now playing in select theaters.