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Film review: "Dark Horse"


An amiably entertaining documentary from British filmmaker Louise Osmond, "Dark Horse" chronicles the story of a coal-mining village in Wales whose residents decide to pool their resources together to breed and train a racehorse. The effort is led by barmaid Jan Vokes and her husband, Brian, who were inspired to find a way for their friends and neighbors to come together as a community and maybe have a bit of fun in the process.

A warm, twinkly-eyed presence, there's little question of how Jan was able to persuade her town of colorful, working-class blokes and bloke-ettes to each contribute 10 pounds a week as part of a "syndicate" which will share the expenses that come with owning a horse. There's a reason that horse racing is traditionally only a hobby of society's upper crust: the costs of breeding and training add up rather quickly. But they manage, and search out an over-the-hill mare and strike a bargain for a stud service. The result is a scrappy, gangly foal whom they dub Dream Alliance.

With the syndicate's meager funds, there's little expectation that their horse will actually be able to win. But since there's been a movie made about this story, you can probably guess what happens next. The syndicate and their equine ward face down class divisions as Dream manages to upset his more elite competitors and, like his owners, fights to make a place for himself in the racing world.

Winner of the audience award for world cinema at last year's Sundance Film Festival, the film follows in the pedigreed footsteps of inspirational horse-racing tales like "Seabiscuit" and "National Velvet." If you're in the market for crowd-pleasing, feel-good entertainment, "Dark Horse" is a safe bet.