A small, touching story, too good to be true and therefore definitely worth a film: DREAM HORSE tells the incredible journey of an inexperienced foal bred by beginners who suddenly becomes a great champion. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Dream Horse (UK 2020)
During the day, Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) sits at the supermarket checkout, and in the evenings she helps out in the pub in the small Welsh village where she lives. The children are out of the house, her husband Brian (Owen Teale) hardly looks up from the television anymore and her everyday life is anything but exciting. But Jan has a dream: she wants to breed her own racehorse. Although she has neither financial resources nor experience, she surprisingly manages to get both Brian and the accountant Howard (Damian Lewis) excited about the idea. Together they decide to form a syndicate that shares the cost of a horse. The crazy project shakes the entire neighborhood out of its lethargy and a bizarre group quickly finds itself who contributes a tenner a week. In fact, a foal named Dream Alliance is born soon after…
These days, equestrian sports are once again at the center of a heated debate about acceptability. The reason: In the past two weeks there was significantly more equestrianism on public television during the Tokyo Olympics than usual. When riders normally compete at the world’s major tournaments, the public hardly takes any notice. As it is, the two-week spotlight on almost all sports in the world once again calls for (sometimes justified, sometimes unjustified) criticism of equestrian sport in general. And yes: the images of a pentathlete hitting her assigned horse with a whip caused a completely justified storm of indignation, even though modern pentathlon has nothing to do with classical cavalry. But it’s actually no wonder that equestrian sports attract critics at irregular intervals. No other sport is automatically accompanied by a fundamental, ethical debate: Is it allowed to domesticate, breed and use animals for entertainment purposes? Aren’t we even preserving animal species that would soon be endangered without human intervention? Especially since modern sport horses have long since been bred under professional supervision to be so performance-oriented and fundamentally correct that it would be pointless to set animal welfare standards for riding on the basis of centuries-old physical conditions? Or do we as humans have the task of preserving an animal species exclusively in its original state, without interfering with nature? Then there would only be free-roaming horses in the world, whose existence is constantly at risk because humans are taking over the animals’ habitat for themselves. We cannot offer all-encompassing answers to this question at this point, but it is not for nothing that we start our text on the horse racing fairy tale “Dream Horse” with it, because the way director Euros Lyn (“Torchwood”) The fact that he manages to combine the reality of racing with the loving charm of an outsider’s fairy tale shows a great deal of feeling for the subject matter and expertise.
To everyone’s surprise, the thoroughbred gelding Dream Alliance is developing into a model student.
“Dream Horse” protagonist Jan doesn’t have a shred of the specialist expertise required for performance-oriented horse breeding. And yet one day she decides to plunge into the matter and raise her own foal from her newly acquired mare. Screenwriter Neil McKay already establishes himself at this point (“Appropriate Adult”) the tone of the film, which takes its tragicomedy to the completely different end of the (equestrian) sports film spectrum than candidates like “Seabisquit”, “Jappeloup” and Co. Because in these contributions, the focus is always on the sporting performance (even if it… Although the emotional bond between horse and human also occupies a large part of the stories, success in competition remains the ultimate goal), “Dream Horse” makes it clear from the start that it is not all that much about the horse, let alone any victories but about the main and supporting human characters. For Jan, breeding a racehorse is primarily an attempt to break out of her lethargy – and she takes the rest of the villagers with her. Never making a secret of the fact that their risky venture could also go wrong. But the result of this would not be consequences for the horse (the blueprint of the horse film always takes competition success as a last resort before the animal suffers a terrible fate), on the contrary: the real Janet Vokes, on whose life story “Dream Horse” is based , was surprised by her troop’s sporting ambitions and initially struggled with sending her protégé to the racetrack. In the event of failure or excessive physical exertion, the racing career of the gelding named Dream Alliance should be ended immediately. And this casual one “Let’s see what comes out of our experiment!”mentality is good for the story.
“Where most other equestrian films always focus on performance, ‘Dream Horse’ makes it clear from the start that it’s not all that much about the horse, let alone any victories.”
Neil McKay portrays Jan and her syndicate colleagues as dreamers with one foot in reality. The more it becomes apparent to the new breeder that her foal might actually have a chance of winning internationally, the more she thaws. The creatives also equip those around them with enough background so that it soon becomes natural to root for the outsiders. And that despite the fact that “Dream Horse” can largely be counted out from a dramaturgical perspective. The big setback and the big race at the end included; The only difference is that a defeat in this one would not have any major consequences for the horse, but would simply deny the syndicate’s success story a happy ending. Especially Jan’s unprecedented optimism, that of Toni Collette (“I’m thinking of ending things”) Authentic down to the very tips of the hair, makes “Dream Horse” a rousing affair. In the case of a fictional work, it would make no difference whether the story takes place in an equestrian environment or in any other setting. The all-important thing is to keep the goal in mind and to gradually break out of the Welsh “every day follows the same routine!” lethargy. Here the thoroughbred gelding, who was not christened Dream Alliance for nothing, becomes a glimmer of hope for an entire village community.
Jan (Toni Collette) receives good news on the phone.
But despite all the fairy-tale exaggeration, the creatives do not shy away from portraying the profession, which is sometimes heavily focused on the horse business, in an appropriately performance-oriented manner – and with this also Jan’s feeling of being out of place in this business. The fact that she and her friends select Dream Alliance’s future jockey and trainer based on their expertise and fairness towards the animals is on the one hand. On the other hand, however, there is also the accepted health risk in horse racing, so that an accident that takes place halfway through the film – in real life it couldn’t have been written more dramaturgically – represents the complete downside when a serious leg injury, let alone a broken bone would normally mean a horse’s death sentence. Of course, a film like “Dream Horse” needs such an emotional setback to maneuver itself out of catastrophe in the third act. In particular, the close emotional bond between Jan and Dream Alliance makes the following the accident “Is he packing it or isn’t he packing it?”phase is particularly emotional, while further human dramas take place around the horse’s fate. Above all, the background surrounding the accountant Howard, who once almost put his family at risk for a comparable risky transaction, not only captures further emotions surrounding the basic topic, but also repeatedly moves the narrative focus away from Jan sufficiently to keep the story in perspective Not to present the whole thing as an individual achievement of her person, but instead to bring the idea of togetherness of this story to the fore.
“In particular, the close emotional bond between Jan and Dream Alliance makes the “Will he get it or won’t he get it?” phase that follows the accident particularly emotional, while further human dramas take place around the horse’s fate.”
Between all the drama, hope and great successes (it’s worth googling the horse’s victories after the film), “Dream Horse” is interspersed with fine, typically British humor. Above all, the encounter between the alliance, which appears in the VIP box in street clothes, and the millionaire competition, which is equipped with expensive accessories and suits, brings some great punchlines to the surface; Scenes like this show you the idiocy that a certain sport is only possible if you have a certain amount of money in your wallet. “Dream Horse” is simply a story of advancement through and through and as such is really fun, although the story beats can be worked out in advance and the happy ending is anything but surprising, even without knowledge of the true story.
Conclusion: It’s actually a well-known story in the category “If you just believe in it, your dream will come true!”. But it’s not just the fact that “Dream Horse” is a true story that makes this enchanting tragicomedy a little gem, but above all the ensemble, whose enthusiasm for their horse always spreads to the audience. There is also a genuine look behind the scenes of horse racing.
“Dream Horse” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 12, 2021.