Review: ‘Dream Horse’ (2020)

In the realm of cinematic experiences, few things capture the heart and tickle the funny bone quite like a good underdog story.

Enter “Dream Horse,” a film that prances onto the screen with a tale so heartwarming, that it could thaw the frost off a winter morning in Wales. Horse racing movies, especially true story ones can carry such emotions that will touch even the hardest equestrian fans.

So, does it cross the finish line with the grace of the Secretariat, or does it stumble out of the gate? Let’s dive into this stable of wonder without stepping in… well, you know.

The Plot Trots Along

At its core, “Dream Horse” tells the story of Jan Vokes (played by Toni Collette), a cleaner and bartender in a small Welsh village, who becomes the unlikely breeder of a racehorse. Jan convinces her neighbors to chip in their meager earnings to help raise Dream Alliance, an endeavor that is as much about community spirit as it is about horse racing.

It’s not the first time someone sees financial freedom in horse racing, is it? After all, the sport is called The Sport of Kings with a lot of money at stake.

Jan and Brian, with the assistance of tax expert Howard (Damian Lewis), join a syndicate after purchasing a broodmare, providing scriptwriter Neil McKay with the ideal chance to construct a gang of one-note comedic relief (Karl Johnson’s old drunk, Siân Phillips’ widow).

When a foal is born, the villagers optimistically name the horse Dream Alliance and hire a trainer (Nicholas Farrell), and the dreary community gets a ray of hope.

What follows is a predictable sequence of triumphs (the racing scenes are skillfully done, underlining the tremendous degree of risk in jump racing), small setbacks, cultural conflicts, and domestic troubles.

It’s a similar underdog story to the one of Rich Strike winning the Kentucky Derby in 2022, who according to TwinSpires, had 80:1 odds.

However, we expected the wins since we are talking about an underdog story. Nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that we haven’t predicted when watching the movie.

Now, you might ask, “Haven’t we seen this story a hundred times before?” Yes, and no. While the underdog sports team (or in this case, the horse) is nothing new to the world of cinema, “Dream Horse” brings fresh energy to the table, mixing humor, heartache, and triumph in a way that feels like a warm hug from a dear friend you haven’t seen in years.


Toni Collette’s performance as Jan is a true masterpiece. She brings a depth to the character that makes you root for her from the get-go.

The supporting cast, including Owen Teale as Jan’s husband, Brian, and Damian Lewis as Howard Davies, a local accountant turned horse syndicate leader, add rich layers to the story. They’re like the perfect side dishes to a main course, enhancing the overall flavor without overpowering it.

Laughs a Furlong

What sets “Dream Horse” apart from other films in its stable is its humor. It’s not just funny; it’s Welsh funny.

That means dry wit, a touch of self-deprecation, and an uncanny ability to find humor in the mundane. One moment, you’re on the edge of your seat as Dream Alliance races towards the finish line; the next, you’re laughing out loud at a joke about sheep.

But Is It All Rosy?

No film is without its flaws. At times, “Dream Horse” can feel a bit formulaic, trotting along a path well-worn by other sports underdog stories.

In other words, you’d know what is going to happen even before it actually happens. It feels predictive, and something that we are used to seeing, especially in underdog movies.

However, it’s the film’s heart and soul that forgives these occasional stumbles. After all, that is what makes it so special. Horse racing is a sport that is filled with emotions and soul, just like “Dream Horse”

Plus, who doesn’t love a good montage of a horse overcoming the odds?

By the Numbers

While I’d love to regale you with statistics about the average number of laughs per minute or the precise increase in heartwarming moments over the standard sports film, let’s face it: movies like “Dream Horse” defy quantification.

They’re about feeling, not numbers. But, for the sake of fun, let’s just say it scores a solid 8/10 on the “feel-good-o-meter.”

But that’s my review, let’s see what the critics have to say about the movie.

Dream Horse got a 6.9/10 rating on IMDb, which is not bad at all, and 88% rotten tomatoes following a strong 97% audience score.

Basically, even the critics love the movie.

Final Words

Even though the plot of the movie might feel predictable, it is still a great watch, especially for horse racing enthusiasts. The scenes are beautifully made, and it is not depressing like most other underdog stories, in fact, it is quite hilarious.

It is a classic underdog story that will fill you with emotions and will make you appreciate life more and definitely a movie worth watch.