Directed by: Euros Lyn
Screenplay by: Neil McKay
Starring: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Joanna Page, Karl Johnson, Steffan Rhodri, Anthony O’Donnell, Nicholas Farrell, Siân Phillips
It might be safe for me to say that we find the “underdog” type of screenplay to be compelling, where its primary function is to raise hope. These types of stories, much like Euros Lyn’s “Dream Horse,” which hits cinemas today, requires a certain type of conviction on the part of the director and the screenwriter to tell said story.
“Dream Horse” is by no means in short supply of that conviction.
A story like this, which happens to be true, also requires a strong cast to stand up to the real counterparts that lived it.
“Dream Horse” does not slouch in this area either. If anything, the cast bares their souls and then some.
Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) is a Welsh bartender with little money and no hopes for anything beyond the lot in life that she drew. McKay and Lyn take advantage of the scenery, the overcast skies to convey the downtrodden nature of their small village, and their lives; you literally feel the weight of the world pressing down on you.
I was commenting to a friend the other day that Toni Collette never seems to age and from when I first saw her in John Singleton’s “Shaft” (2000), she has always had this determined vulnerability that plays into the types of roles she takes on. Her take on Jan Vokes is no exception.
Her determination, her drive is what compels us to want to watch “Dream Horse,” to see what happens as she convinces her neighbors to chip in to a collective to breed a horse. ‘Determination’ might not be the right word – ‘aspiration’ seems to fit the film’s mood better and her place in it. Both fit.
It is when she meets Howard Davies, played by Damian Lewis, that she comes out of her shell and begins asserting herself, which in turn carries over to Brian. Lewis is the lose character of the lot, with a history that catches up with him. He’s also the most inspired, especially when he comes to his senses in his daily doldrum of a desk job.
All through out this story is that of Dream Alliance, the horse that rejuvenated a community when it was at its lowest point. From his birth through his racing adventures, there’s a connectedness between Jan and Dream Alliance that the story conveys; they push each other to be better.
As it happens, there’s a number of fun and lively characters that strengthen the need for hope, and there’s a challenge to overcome, which the story handles well enough, but the elements about the struggle could have been placed better in the story flow, and that’s probably the only criticism I have.
“Horse Dreams” never dares to move beyond the true story’s foundations and it doesn’t need to. The cast is a lively bunch and brings a ray of sunshine to a downtrodden place. It delivers the dreams and the hope that keep the human condition and spirit alive.
The Highly Recommended “Horse Dreams” hits cinemas today.
PG, 113 minutes, A Bleecker Street release