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Movie: Dream Horse — thrilling, heartwarming

Off the bat, it’s important for me to say that as a rule, I do not watch movies starring or about animals. I am way too sensitive about animal deaths and injuries to be able to handle seeing it on-screen, so I stay away. 

I intermittently make exceptions to this rule, and have been burned time and time again. The most egregious of sinners is “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” where I made the exception because I love Jessica Chastain, and was left watching Nazis brutally mow down animals in a zoo. You may ask yourself, “Lauren, what did you expect would happen in a film about Nazis and a zoo?” I have no idea. But let that be a lesson to all of you and a new rule added to my list of movies not to see.

Anyway, all of this is to say, it is a big deal when I decide to watch a movie involving an animal, and my latest exception was “Dream Horse,” starring Toni Collette and Damian Lewis. I love Toni Collette and will watch anything she is in. That, combined with being antsy to review a new movie, led me to watch this film and I can happily report that the on-screen animal endangerment is not too bad (for very slight spoilers, scroll to the bottom of this review to see what to expect) and the entertainment value is spot on.

Based on a true story, “Dream Horse” is a thrilling, heartwarming film that shows the beauty of community and that you can do anything when you put your mind to it. Even the most ritzy of hobbies can be open to you if you have enough chutzpah and dedication. Admittedly, as much as I truly did enjoy the film, at first glance, its story is not the most original. Yes, it is another one of those movies about a magnificent horse’s journey to racing in the big times and (hopefully) winning. But what is a bit different than every other racehorse movie is that this horse, Dream Alliance, was purchased by a group of average, working-class Welshmen and women who pooled their money over several years to buy, care for, and train a racehorse. These men and women are not used to mingling with the blue bloods of society, so it makes for some pretty cringey and hilarious fish-out-of-water scenes when they start to wine and dine in the owners’ lounges at racetracks. 

But that is what makes the film even more fun — that you get to see this sport in a new way, through the eyes of average people who have poured their hard-earned wages into a hobby that finally puts them at the same level as the aristocracy. And it must have felt so nice to see Dream Alliance leave those royal horses in his dust! I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be there in real life, rooting for your horse. It took years off of my life watching the dramatized racing scenes in the film alone. In fact, I watched the movie before bed and it took me hours to go to sleep, probably because my adrenaline was through the roof. Have I mentioned I get too invested in film and TV shows?

You think the accents in “Mare of Easttown” are thick? Well, buckle up for the thick, beautiful Welsh accents in this film. Of course, Toni Collette and Damian Lewis aren’t Welsh. But Collette can do anything, including accents, as she trades her Aussie tone for the melodic Welsh accent. The same goes for Lewis, who trades in his English accent for that of a Welshman. But upon quick research, it seems almost every other actor in the film is Welsh. And as many of the characters are from a more working class background, their accents are even thicker. I was in heaven.

“Dream Horse” is a heartwarming crowdpleaser, perfect for the whole family, that is going to leave you smiling ear-to-ear when the credits start to roll. And maybe will make even the grinch-iest viewers’ hearts a few sizes bigger, especially when you see the real subjects of the film at the end (including Dream Alliance himself).

“Dream Horse” is in theaters only, beginning May 21, and streaming on-demand June 11!

My Review: B

Spoilers about animal distress: At the 20-minute mark or so, you find out Dream Alliance’s mom died giving birth to him, but you do not see anything; it is said in passing. Later on, Dream Alliance hurts his leg in a race; you see some blood and the horse distressed, but it isn’t too bad and of course, he is OK.

LAUREN BRADSHAW grew up in Courtland, graduated from Southampton Academy and double-majored in foreign affairs and history at the University of Virginia. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area and can be reached at flickchickdc@gmail.com.