Off And Running
Stars: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Joanna Page, Kari Johnson, Owen Teale, Steffan Rhodri, Anthony O’Donnell, Nicholas Farrell and Sian Phillips
Director: Euros Lyn
Scriptwriter: Neil McKay
Composer: Benjamin Woodgates
Cinematography: Erik Wilson
Bleeker Street/Warner Brothers Pictures
Running Length: 113 Minutes
Off and running, indeed, in this warm, pleasant film of horse racing in Wales and the trials and tribulations of those who invest in a race horse. Toni Collette stars as Jan, the person who gets the urge to own a race horse. This is based on a true story, a rags-to-riches story, if you will, of becoming a champion amidst great odds. Several years ago, the documentary, “Chasing The Win,” gave us a true story, about owning and training a race horse and trying to compete with the Champions. Here, the will to run and win is also there, and away we go to race in the Welsh Grand National.
It is a small Welsh town that has seen better times. Jan (Toni Collette from TV’s “Pieces of Her”) works as a clerk in a grocery store and her husband, Brian (Owen Teale from TV’s “Line of Duty”) sits at home. This town used to be known for pigeon races, but all of a sudden, Jan gets the idea of owning and racing a REAL race horse. Her quest begins with purchasing a mare who will become pregnant with what the town hopes to be---a genuine race horse. By this time, the town has formed a Dream Alliance where everyone puts in $10, and this provides money for purchasing a mare, the care of the colt and later training. We get to see the workings of a small town and how payment can be made in the form of meat from the butcher instead of cash. People care for each other and do the best with what they have. Howard Davies, an accountant (Damian Lewis from TV’s “Billions” and as Steve McQueen in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”) becomes Jan’s friend and provides financial information, though it is suspect that he may be a gambler. The mare is purchased, pregnancy goes well, colt is born and taken away for training, and then comes the question---can he race? Does he know which way to run? What do you think?
This is a comfortable film with surprises at just the right times, compassion at just the right times, and cheering at just the right times. Plus, countryside humor and the fellowship of a small village. However, I found it sometimes hard to catch statements from people because of the Welsh accent. A few subtitles here and there would have helped. Scenery, lush and green, is captured by cinematographer Erik Wilson, which is inviting enough for people to want to visit Wales.
As far as acting, this is Toni Collette’s film and with her enthusiasm for her project, propels the story forward. Damian Lewis has facial expressions that provide statements by themselves. Owen Teale’s Brian, is the dutiful husband here and goes along with what his wife is working on. The ambiance of small-town living is well played and the stable where their horse is born is not at all like the stables of the wealthy against whom the horse will run. This brings out the urge-to-win in the audience and you wish you were on the back of that horse going down the track. All in all, “Dream Horse” goes to the finish line in style
*Note: there has also been a documentary called “Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance”
Copyright 2021 Marie Asner