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With DREAM HORSE, Toni Collette bet on the right horse

Job by Alexis Lebrun February 9, 2022

As she celebrates her thirty-year career this year, the Australian actress continues to shine in extremely varied registers. She proves it again with DREAM HORSE (Euros Lyn, 2021), a family feel-good movie as the British know how to do them so well.

social revenge

Jan Vokes (Toni Colette) is in her gloomy forties. Stuck in Wales with her husband, who married very young, she has to combine two jobs to make ends meet. Cashier by day and waitress by night, she feels an urgent need to give her life a boost. The latter will rather put whips on her way, since Jan has the opportunity to acquire a racehorse. Problem, this project is obviously not within the reach of someone evolving in a very modest environment. Fortunately, the heroine of DREAM HORSE has resources: she founded a workers’ union with relatives from the area to contribute and transform this idea into a great collective adventure. So these nickel-plated horse racing feet are setting out to conquer racetracks with a dose of enthusiasm and authenticity that largely makes up for their inexperience.

And it’s all based on a famous true story in Wales, already told in a Sundance award-winning documentary, DARK HORSE: THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF DREAM ALLIANCE (Louise Osmond, 2015). Even if we guess the end of the film fairly easily, we let ourselves be carried away by the contagious energy of Toni Collette – once again remarkable – and the rest of the cast, who pay a fine tribute to a region devastated by the crisis of the coal industry. Never clumsy, the film by Welsh director Euros Lyn on the contrary paints a sensitive portrait of these working classes who set foot in the door of an environment which is normally forbidden to them by social conventions. The positive energy of the film is also based on the music used, which gives pride of place to some great Welsh groups such as the Manic Street Preachers or Super Furry Animals, but also to an enveloping orchestral soundtrack which accompanies spectacular horse racing scenes. , while highlighting the very green landscapes of Wales.

Equitherapy and feel-good movie

The whole social dimension of the film immediately places it in the great British tradition of feel-good comedies where a generally working-class group embarks on an improbable collective challenge to overcome the unemployment crisis and regain a lost pride in social relations. Of course, we always think of the unsurpassable reference of the genre, the metalworkers of THE FULL MONTY (Peter Cattaneo, 1997), but DREAM HORSE also evokes LES VIRTUOSES (Mark Herman, 1996) and its miners. Lately, British cinema has more and more returned to the register of feel-good films based on true stories, since after the return of Peter Cattaneo to stage military wives as choristers in THE SINGING CLUB (2020), the recent FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS (Chris Foggin, 2019) successfully tapped the same vein by telling the story of famous English singing sailors.

But there is also a very specific category of feel-good movies where animals come to the rescue of badly embarked existence. To stay in the equestrian field, we can cite two that DREAM HORSE inevitably brings to mind: PUR SANG, LA LEGEND DE SEABISCUIT (Gary Ross, 2003), in which a seemingly ordinary horse becomes a champion during the Great Depression, and the very recent VICTORY AT ALL PRICE (2020) by Australian Rachel Griffiths, which tells the true story of Michelle Payne, the youngest of ten siblings, dreaming at all costs of becoming the first woman to win the famous Melbourne Cup horse race. Like DREAM HORSE, all of these films stand out by delivering a message of hope and optimism capable of making us forget the ambient gloom, an essential ingredient in any successful feel-good movie, and which it is impossible to resist when animals are involved.

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