I wanted to see this movie even before I watched the trailer. Damian Lewis and Toni Collette are both favorite actors of mine and I’ve followed their careers for years because they’re both insanely talented. And on the plus side, the film is set in Wales so we get to hear Damian Lewis’ more natural voice. Silly reason, I know but true. I also love horse movies and have since I was little, especially stories about racing. I truly hoped this was as good as the trailer appeared and it was even better. The film was funny, hopeful, and charming with a talented cast of quirky, irresistible characters.
The incredible true story of the underdog racehorse Dream Alliance, Dream Horse is directed by Euros Lyn from a screenplay by Neil McKay. The film details how Welsh bartender Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) gets the idea to breed a racehorse. With very little money and her only experience racing pigeons, Jan still persuades her husband Brian (Owen Teale) to purchase a broodmare. However, it’s going to take more so she recruits the more experienced Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) who went broke racing horses, and her neighbors to chip in their earnings to help raise Dream in the hopes he can compete with the racing elites. The group’s investment pays off but not without struggles along the way. Dream eventually makes it to the Welsh Grand National with the hopes of the entire town behind him.
There are many reasons to love this movie. For a starter, the story, based on real events, has a hopeful and optimistic plot. This is a story about following your dreams, no matter how far-fetched or seemingly impossible. In the story, the town is in a downturn. Jan works two jobs and feels like there’s nothing much to get up for in the morning. Her husband Brian sits in front of the tv and isn’t happy. Howard works a job as a financial advisor at a desk job he hates. One of the investors, Kerby (Karl Johnson), spends most of his time drinking. But when they begin raising Dream, they begin having reasons to live and dream. They begin fighting for those dreams and all of them get second chances, including Dream himself.
Besides the hopefulness, the story is full of fun and humor. The characters are quirky. Jan’s husband Brian goes by the monicker Daisy. He slips treats to Dream’s mother and says, “You only love me for my mints.” The group needs to put money into a slot to keep the lights on at the pub. The squabbles between the group over names and finances are less dramatic and far more humorous, especially with snappy dialogue. The trainer, Phillip Hobbs (Nicholas Farrell) agrees to work with Dream because he has “spirit like his owner.” There are hilarious moments of disparity between the poorer syndicate and the rich owners, like Kerby bringing canned beers to the owner’s box. There are so many moments like this in the film, where the quirky characters shine and even the horse adds to the comedic elements.
The entire cast is talented. Toni Collette brings her skill to create a warm, loving, charming character. Damian Lewis is equally charming and entirely different from the military types he’s played in the past, but it demonstrates his talent as an actor. Backed by the incredibly brilliant Sian Phillips as Maureen, another investor, bringing perfect comedic timing and the incredible Joanna Page as Angela Davies, portraying Howard’s wife with wit and skill, the rest of the cast is quirky but wholly irresistible. There are no missed performances. Owen Teale as Brian is kind and funny in his performance as Jan’s husband. We even get the wildly talented Peter Davidson as one of the rich owners. With a cast this good, there was very little that went wrong.
If there were any missed beats, it is at some points the story veers off the horse into the daily dramas of the town and can at those times move a bit slower. For me, that enhanced the feel of authenticity and realism. The story is a true one so the little pieces of characterization add to the believability of the plot, making it feel even more about a town full of people rather than just another movie.
If you love comedies, if you love horses, this film just vibrates with humor and beautiful moments with Dream. The cast is so delightful and lovely that I enjoyed every moment, even the ones where there were struggles or difficulties. The characters overcome those bad times and that hopefulness infuses the entire story. The acting is brilliantly performed, not just Toni Collette and Damian Lewis but every individual, even in bit parts. There is everything to love about this movie. Dream Horse makes you believe dreams are possible again.
Dream Horse opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, May 21, 2021.