Based on a true story, Dream Horse details the improbable racing career of a horse bred on an allotment in Wales by a syndicate of bored neighbours – led by cashier/bartender Jan (Toni Collette, trying her best Welsh accent). It’s absolute bread-and-butter stuff for British cinema and our love for tales of plucky underdogs, and although there’s high likelihood of a hackneyed plot and characters, Dream Horse manages to swerve quite a few of those obvious snares.

Collette’s warmth is a real asset to her role as Jan, who is saddled with a disinterested, warts-and-all husband (Owen Teale, delighting in his grisliness), who fumes at her spending money on a crackpot dream: “£300! Coulda gone to Benidorm for that.” Clearly there’s a redemptive arc in their relationship (to repeat, not every cliché is avoided).

The absolute heart of Dream Horse, though, is the motley crew assembled as the owners of horse Dream Alliance. Uptight accountant Howard (Damian Lewis) acts as the operation’s financial brains, and the straight guy opposite its many, many oddballs, portrayed by a wealth of Welsh talent including Karl Johnson, Siân Phillips, Anthony O’Donnell and Darren Evans. The offbeat humour ranges from a thorough definition of “hwyl” vs. “craic”, a Tunnock’s teacakes dedication and a strict sign warning people off feeding the horse chips. It rightly revels in its Welshness, from Tom Jones to Colin Jackson to Katherine Jenkins, and it’s hard to top the casual interjection of “Wales beat England at Wembley – shat on them, we did!”

Dream Horse’s careful navigation of the predictable is undoubtedly helped by its top-drawer cast and sparky dialogue, but it also does well at building tension throughout key race scenes. It won’t change cinema but, with more depth than expected, it sweeps you up into the saddle with its rambunctious excitement.



CAST: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Siân Phillips, Nicholas Farrell, Peter Davison, Karl Johnson, Joanna Page, Anthony O’Donnell, Steffan Rhodri, Darren Evans


WRITER: Neil McKay

SYNOPSIS: Dream Alliance is an unlikely race horse bred by small-town Welsh bartender Jan Vokes. With no experience, Jan convinces her neighbours to chip in their meagre earnings to help raise Dream in the hopes he can compete with the racing elites.