“Dark Horse” (2015)
There are some stories that may be improbable but are so heartwarming and uplifting that you just want them to be real. In the case of “Dark Horse,” the rags to riches documentary about a horse owned by a Welsh group of retired coal miners, that goes on to win so many races that it is invited to the biggest race in Great Britain, The Grand National Steeplechase, the story is true.
The documentary takes place in a Welsh winning town, which has recently had all its mines close, ruining the local economy. A barmaid hears that a group in the town once owned a racehorse (it lost money), and she decides that it would be fun to own one. She puts up a sign in the bar, and over 30 people agree to put in ten pounds a week in the fund to eventually buy a racehorse. Instead of the purchasing of a grown racehorse, they decide to buck the odds even more and breed one. They find a mare that had three races under her belt (losing all three races so badly that no one wanted to bet on her). Then they find a stallion that has the incredibly low stud price of 3000 pounds.
A colt is born, and the alliance decides to name the horse “Dream Alliance.” To say that Dream Alliance early accommodations were rustic would be an understatement as its pen looks like an abandoned lot. Soon the horse is big enough for training, and finally, they are ready for the first race. Once the race starts, this improbable tale just gets better and better because this horse can run and win.
“Dark Horse” isn’t just about horse racing, it’s about the power of animals to help us heal, to feel better and bring people to together. It’s an incredibly uplifting film that will bring a tear to your eye from time to time. It’s also a “Rocky” tale of a working class group of people taking a “working class” horse that has no chance of winning in the high-price stakes of racing and turning their world on its ears, because not only does this horse win, it win’s big. The horse wins the 2009 Welsh Grand National; an incredible feat that no one thought it would happen (40-1 odds).
The film is so much fun to watch due to the cast of characters that make up the Welsh village. There is Jan, the barmaid who started the idea. She talks about Dream Alliance as if he can talk to her. Jan is so committed to the horse that she works two jobs and because of Dream Alliance, she becomes a bit of a celebrity in the grocery store she does cleaning in. Her husband, a toothless man with a big heart, is hilarious in his telling what happened to his group and the horse. My favorite moment from the film is when the group of owners go to their first race. One of the group decides that he doesn’t want to pay for an overpriced lunch and brings along a sandwich and two beers. When the ticket takers try to stop him at the gate, he gleefully tells them “You have to let me in, I’m an owner!”
I loved this warm and funny film. The love between the horse and its owners is almost overpowering. Each and every one of them felt by the end of his racing career that Dream was part of their family. “Dark Horse” is about beating the odds; that even though you might not belong there, as long as you believe in yourself, you can succeed. If you like rooting for the underdog or the little guy, this is the film for you. “Dark Horse” is a winner no matter how he places in the race. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Dark Horse” is playing in Atlanta exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
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