Movie review of ‘Dark Horse’: British documentary, about a cleaner who becomes a racehorse owner, could have been crafted by Hollywood. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Oh, just try to resist this one. The British documentary “Dark Horse” is a delightful story well told — and, like so many good stories, it begins with a dream.
In Louise Osmond’s film, set in a depressed former mining village in Wales, we meet Janet Vokes, a barmaid and a cleaner who pictured herself as a racehorse owner. Those around her, including husband Brian, scoffed, but she had a plan: saving up to buy a scarred, weary mare, negotiating a discount stud fee and recruiting a syndicate of 23 working-class locals to pay 10 pounds a week each to raise the resultant foal — named, appropriately, Dream Alliance — on their slag-heap allotment. (That slag heap is, by the way, about as posh as it sounds.)
The sport of kings, suffice to say, didn’t know what hit it, and the “Dark Horse” tale cheerfully unfolds, with just enough of real-life fairy-dust sprinkled. (Did Dream Alliance become the greatest racehorse who ever lived? No. Did he achieve something remarkable? Yes. Now go watch the movie already.)
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Dark Horse,’ a documentary directed by Louise Osmond. 85 minutes. Rated PG for some mild thematic elements and language. Seven Gables.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy getting to know this friendly community and realizing how much this spindly legged horse meant to them. “When I went to the races, I wasn’t Janet the cleaner,” says Vokes, wonderingly. “I was Janet the racehorse owner.” Even the hired trainer, who seems a bit sneery early on about his charge’s working-class origins, gets emotional toward the end. Hollywood could have crafted this story but didn’t. For once, I can’t wait for a sequel.
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