Review: Giddy up, 'Dream Horse' is a rousing true story with heart

Toni Collette is a Welsh bartender who buys in to the horse racing world in this formulaic but effective drama, based on a true story.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A small group of townspeople from Wales wades into the waters of big time horse racing in "Dream Horse," an unlikely but true tale that gallops to victory because of the size of its heart. 

Director Euros Lyn tells this story of a dreamer who upsets the ranks of the equestrian world like the outsize fairy tale that it is. It feels familiar because of its clichés, but it's a rousing enough story that those clichés don't hold it back from making an impact. Plain and simple, "Dream Horse" just works. 

Toni Collette in "Dream Horse."

Toni Collette plays Jan Vokes, a Welsh bartender who works several jobs and takes care of her aging parents on the side. She longs to be involved in horse racing but doesn't have the means, but she scrapes together enough money to buy a mare for breeding. 

The breeding is an even bigger buy-in, so Jan pulls together a group of investors from town who agree to each throw in a few quid a week toward expenditures. They're not experts by any means, and include Jan's husband (Owen Teale), a businessman (Damian Lewis) who already lost his shirt in horse racing, and the colorful town drunk (Karl Johnson) who always seems to be taking off his pants. 

This ragtag group faces dismissive looks from the snooty blue bloods of the racing world, but their horse, named Dream Alliance, becomes a symbol of the town's pride. And as he starts moving up the ranks of the racing world, it becomes clear he's a horse with promise. 

There's definitely a formula that Lyn is following — everything, both on and off the race track, is staged as a come-from-behind victory — but Collette's conviction and the earnestness of his storytelling make "Dream Horse" a winner, and a solid bet all around.


'Dream Horse'


Rated PG: for language and thematic elements

Running time: 113 minutes

In theaters