Director: Louise Osmond
Written by: Louise Osmond
Running Time: 85 mins
Release date: 17th April 2015
There are some films you go into with low expectations, not really looking forward to sitting through it. Dark Horse, a film about my least favourite sport, horse racing, did not excite me one bit. Sometimes you have to go with the flow because Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story Of Dream Alliance is not only the surprise of the year, it could quite easily be in my top ten by the end of the year. It’s that good.
A small Welsh village, one of the poorest around and Jan Vokes is struck by an idea after overhearing a conversation from a group of men in the working men’s club where she’s a barmaid. |She wants to breed a race horse. Having no experience, knowing the cost would be astronomical and the chances of her securing a thoroughbred almost impossible, not to mention the elitism that comes with the racing game, she bonds with 29 other locals to pay £10 a week. They manage to bred a horse on their allotment, Dream Alliance. What happened next is unbelievable but true.
The nice thing with documentaries is that, if they are well made, you can be drawn into worlds you’d never dream of having any interest in. Louise Osmond’s film sparkles from start to finish. This is one of the great underdog stories. Of a group of ordinary people chasing a dream, facing all kinds of obstacles and overcoming every one of them. Add to the events a horse that refuses to give up, just like the colourful owners.
Using vox pops and talking heads of the people involved, from the sprightly Jan, a woman working two jobs to make ends meet and who is stubborn about making things work, regardless of what could stop her; to the mix of locals who got swept along with Jan’s vision and the trainers, who at first, looked down on these simple folks from the valley, attempting to enter a world alien to them, yet eventually winning their respects.
Never does the film laugh at these people, instead respects them, allowing us to enjoy their passion and their mission to succeed, laughing at them and their often hilarious memories of what got them to the Grand National. Osmond allows the story to unfold in a natural manner, with an air of triumph running throughout. As with all underdog stories, there are plenty of ups equated by downs. None more so than what the horse goes through.
Dark Horse is a magnificent film. It’s joyful, funny, surprisingly moving and just life-affirming. I loved spending every minute of this terrific film with these incredibly charming and down to earth people. It also proves that life certainly can be stranger than fiction.