May 18th, 2021
MOVIE: DREAM HORSE
STARRING: TONI COLLETTE, DAMIAN LEWIS, OWEN TEALE
DIRECTED BY: EUROAS LYN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
I hate to call it this, but Dream Horse is the kind of movie you take your grandma or grandpa to go see. That’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just not the kind of movie that offers a response outside of, “that was nice”. It’s based on a true story, about an underdog group of people, from a small Welsh town, led by local bartender Jan Vokes (Toni Collette), who had the ambition to raise a race horse and compete with the cream of the crop in the sport. Dream Horse is about second chances and finding one’s self through the heart of a beautiful animal. You may have seen it before, but Dream Horse is a safe bet.
Colette is the major focus as Jan, working in the day at the local grocery store, and finishing her nights serving others at the local pub. She takes care of husband Brian (Owen Teale) who spends his day watching local television and cares for their mini farm of ducks, some sheep, and a few chickens. Her life is less fulfilling, where her elderly parents constantly need her help, her children have moved on their own, and the days of her pigeon competitions are a thing of the past. When she overhears local pub customer Howard Davies (Damien Lewis) speak of his days owning a horse, it gives her the nugget to do it herself. She does her research and then does her best to convince Brian, Howard, and a group of nine other town folk to join in and finance their uncommon thoroughbred. They become their own syndicate and name the pony Dream Alliance. Now they just have to try and win a few races.
To say that this is Toni Collette’s show would be an understatement. Without the Hereditary star, Dream Horse would barely matter. Her performance is subtle chameleon level work, as an Australian playing a Welsh native, with her accent on point, a hair clip pinning her locks to the side, and being the character with more depth than just horse owner. The screenplay by Neil McKay is unfortunately limited to the standard route for an underdog horse narrative, starting slow with a fourth place finish, doubt in what the group has got themselves into, the gradual climb of success, a big setback, and then the final race for all the marbles. Mixed within is what works best, which is brief moments of witty humor, and an infectious comradery in the group of people. It’s those things that Dream Horse needs more of to be better than good.
The general narrative of Dream Horse is standard to a fault. We get the training montages, the speech from the husband on why it’s a bad idea, and the moments of triumph. But the biggest and most annoying parts of Dream Horse is when the racing action occurs, which involves various scenes of facial reactions, cheering, moments of hugging, and nervous fidgeting. It happens so repeatedly, there’s barely much acting for anyone to do. It doesn’t help that when these racing scenes are happening the action with the horses is oddly dull. Unlike films such as Seabiscuit or Secretariat, there’s very little thrill of the races at all. It’s because we’re too busy looking at the humans.
It’s all of this as to why Dream Horse raises above mediocre. It’s a 2 ½ star movie that should be 3, but instead it settles for less. There’s even a fantastic closing credit scene where the entire group of actors and the people they portray sing Tom Jones’ “Delilah”, which feels like something this narrative could have used midway through. It’s nice. It’s cute. It’s a great story about a horse overcoming the odds. It’s just not wowing me the way I had hoped. I guess I’ll keep dreaming.
DREAM HORSE IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS THIS FRIDAY MAY 21st
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady