DREAM HORSE could be the movie to see for whatever ails you. It’s based on a remarkable against-the-odds true story, and it takes us, the audience, into a small, economically-depressed village in Wales, and more specifically, into the life of a 47-year-old woman who just wants something to look forward to when she wakes up in the morning.
Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) has two ho-hum jobs, two elderly parents who need lots of help, and one unemployed husband who seems to have given up on everything except watching TV. At her supermarket job, she spends most of her days pushing an industrial-sized floor cleaning machine. Evenings she works as a barmaid (unglamorous beer pourer is a better description) in a not-terribly-busy pub, but at least it’s there where she gets her Big Idea. After overhearing a customer talk enthusiastically about a racehorse he once owned, Jan thinks, why not me? She’s not at all discouraged after learning that Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) was nearly bankrupted in the process. That’s because Jan Vokes is a very human being in search of a joyful purpose.
Jan has always been good with animals, and she has the Blue Ribbons to prove it. As a girl, she won many a prize for Whippet dogs and racing pigeons, but a thoroughbred racing horse? That’s something she can’t afford on her own. With the last of their retirement funds, she and husband Brian purchase an injured racehorse on the cheap and breed her with a certified stud. Eventually, Jan persuades Howard to manage her cause and a “syndicate” of townspeople to contribute 10 pounds a week towards the care and professional training of the colt, which they name Dream Alliance.
The fact that you know the outcome of the story going into it does not diminish the pleasure in seeing it. There are set-backs along the way as well as thrilling racing sequences that had me and other people in the theater alternately sobbing and laughing and cheering. Oh, the joy of being in a theater again, happily vaccinated, and seeing a movie that looked like it was filmed entirely on location, which it was.
The true story of Jan Vokes and Dream Alliance took place in the years leading up to the Welsh Grand National in 2009–well before our global pandemic. Only twenty-three people in Jan’s village became part of the syndicate that sponsored Dream Alliance, but the whole village rallied around the cause and rooted for their success. Watching the community spirit in Cefn Fforest reborn on the big screen is one more reason for the audience to stand up and cheer.
People around the globe are hoping and praying for an end to this pandemic. Here in America, we’re getting closer. Imagine the joy in such a victory. Maybe it will inspire us to put aside some of our differences and rise up together and cheer.