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Filmed Almost Entirely in Wales at Some Fantastic Locations
by Kathryn Williams | Wales Online | June 4, 2021
Welsh-made film Dream Horse is in cinemas and tells the tale of champion racehorse Dream Alliance, who was raised by a Cefn Fforest syndicate. Dream Horse stars Toni Collette and Owen Teale as Jan and Brian Vokes, the animal-loving Cefn Fforest couple who, with Howard Davies and a syndicate of locals, bred and owned the Welsh Grand National winner.
Davies is played by Billions star Damian Lewis, who talks about his fiercely proud Welsh roots, here.
The film is shot almost entirely in Wales, using local people as extras, and filmmakers built a brand new allotment here just for the movie.
Here’s more about the locations used in Dream Horse:
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True Story of a Welsh Village That Bought a Racehorse is a Winner!
by Peter Bradshaw | The Guardian | June 3, 2021
****4 Stars ****
Yes, it’s schmaltzy, very schmaltzy, but with strong performances by Toni Collette and Damian Lewis the odds are that you’ll love it.
Six years ago I found myself gripped by the overwhelmingly likable documentary Dark Horse, which told the amazing true story of Janet Vokes, a former whippet breeder and pigeon fancier from the depressed Welsh village of Cefn Fforest who organised a community syndicate to buy a racehorse. The drinkers at Jan’s local chipped in a weekly £10 sub and their horse, symbolically called Dream Alliance, wound up winning the Welsh Grand National, basically making it the Seabiscuit of the valleys.
I predicted at the time that this would be remade as a fiction feature with Imelda Staunton as Jan and Jim Broadbent as her hangdog husband Brian. Well, actually it’s Toni Collette and Owen Teale, with Damian Lewis playing Howard Davies, the local tax accountant and breezy man-of-the-world whose dangerously addictive love of horseracing inspires Jan. The resulting movie may be a bit schmaltzy – actually, a lot schmaltzy – but I couldn’t help enjoying it: like Chariots of Fire, only with horses. That comparison, however, may be down to Chariots cast member Nicholas Farrell here playing the shrewd professional trainer Philip Hobbs.
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The True Story of a Welsh Village That Raised a Racehorse
by Vanessa Thorpe | The Guardian/The Observer | May 30, 2021
Ever felt stirred by a warm sense of connection to the world around you? Well, the Welsh have a word for that precious sensation: “hwyl”, sounding a little like “hoyle” to an English ear. And, as cinema projectors whirr into action again, there is one film above all others that aims to bring you this very emotion.
Out on 4 June, Dream Horse is the true story of the extraordinary racehorse that brought a group of impoverished Welsh owners together and offered them fresh hope against all imaginable odds. And the concept of hwyl, a kind of mystic combination of those two more famous buzz words, the Irish “craic” and the Danish “hygge”, is right at the film’s core, according to director Euros Lyn.
“Its meaning is described in the film, but actually there are lots of uses. If you are a Welsh speaker, you ask people in the morning how the hwyl is. Or you use it if someone is clearly enjoying few drinks at the bar. It is a sort of “life force”, and the characters in Dream Horse are certainly on that kind of adventure. So it’s the right word and it is also what we want for our audiences.”
Starring Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Joanna Page and Owen Teale, the film tells of an inexperienced syndicate in the valleys of South Wales who fund the training of a thoroughbred, Dream Alliance, that goes on to beat the best on the race course.
The Dream Alliance story had already been told in an award-winning documentary, Dark Horse, but writer Neil McKay “went back to first base”, said Lyn. “Neil did a deep dive and spent a long time with the real people involved. They’ve all had such varied lives, including Howard Davies, the accountant that Damian plays, we knew we had to leave some of it out.”
Lewis, who lost his wife, the acclaimed actress Helen McCrory, to cancer earlier this year, is half Welsh and had been keen to work closer to home after starring in the flashy American hedge-fund drama, Billions, for Sky. “It was perfect timing,” the actor has said. “I like its almost naive warmth and generosity of spirit, compared to the Billions world, which is all about transactional favour-trading.”
“It was wonderful to have Damian as Howard,” said Lyn. “His father is Welsh and he has a brilliant ear anyway.”
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Culture Club: Film With James King
by Gingersnap | damian-lewis.com | May 25, 2021
Tune in today, May 25, 2021 from 8:00 p.m. on to hear Damian discuss Dream Horse with James King on the Jo Whiley podcast for BBC Radio 2, here. His portion is more towards the end of the broadcast. Damian speaks of his Welsh roots, his support of Wales, and that he identifies as partly Welsh and British (“not English”). He also reveals his children tease and mock him about his American accent. The programme will be available shortly after broadcast. Download the BBC Sounds app to your phone!
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Hollywood Tells ‘Fairytale’ Horse Story
by Nellie Bird | BBC News | May 22, 2021
Damian Lewis (far left) and Joanna Page star in the film playing Angela Davies and accountant Howard Davies (far right)
Dream Horse will get its premiere in Blackwood, Cefn Fforest – the Wales village where the movie takes place – on Sunday, May 23, 2021 at Maxime Cinema Blackwood and a special screening at Vue Leicester Square in London on May 27, 2021 before its general release in the UK on June 4. The film was released in the US on May 21 and will receive a Video on Demand (VOD) US release on June 11, 2021, according to Metacritic.
Damian Lewis plays Howard Davies, an accountant who runs the syndicate – a casting that delighted the real life Howard.
“Most of my so-called friends and syndicate members thought that Danny DeVito would have been a better casting but Damian chose to take that on – we think it’s incredible,” said the accountant.
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A Winning, Feel-Good True Racing Tale
by Pete Hammond | Deadline | May 20, 2021
If audiences are looking for a little uplift after a long time locked down, if they want a feeling of hope and human connection, and if they long for just a good old-fashioned, Rocky-like feel-good story, then Dream Horse, is the must-see movie for them. Finally hitting theaters Friday after debuting at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, it’s one of those small gems that somehow gets made in the shadow of blockbuster tentpoles and genre films. This true story of a small Welsh town and the unlikely racehorse champion that brings them together is a lovely movie designed to make you feel good about life. Nothing wrong with that.
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A Familiar Bet
by Glenn Kenny | New York Times | May 20, 2021
Toni Collette and Damian Lewis play two underdogs in Wales who invest in a race horse in this comedy-drama ripped from the headlines.
In the comedy-drama “Dream Horse,” a woman who works two jobs gets an idea. Remembering her glory days of training animals — pigeons, to be exact — she is determined to buy a mare and birth a race horse. She doesn’t have the resources to do it on her own, so she turns to her sleepy community in Wales to pool their assets.
This sports underdog story, which is based on true events, has several features endemic to the genre. But “Dream Horse,” an unabashed crowd-pleaser directed by Euros Lyn, earns its smiles and cheers.
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A Satisfyingly Sweet True Story
by David Ehrlich | Indiewire | May 19, 2021
The hard-luck residents of a Welsh mining town find new hope in this satisfyingly sweet true story about a racehorse that beat the odds.
A charmingly guileless crowd-pleaser about a lovable group of working-class stiffs and red-faced retirees in a former South Wales mining village who find new reason to get out of bed in the morning when they pool their resources and invest in breeding a thoroughbred, Euros Lyn’s “Dream Horse” is more than a little hackneyed for something based on such an amazing true story. And yet, the Rocky-like theatrics that dominate the home stretch — already familiar to anyone who remembers Louise Osmond’s equally winsome 2015 documentary on the subject, “Dark Horse” — are perhaps the least compelling aspect of a light matinee that can fray around the edges as it strains to thread the needle between “The Full Monty” and “Seabiscuit.” On the contrary, “Dream Horse” hits its stride off the track, where the paint-by-numbers drama of winning and losing takes a backseat to a more nuanced tale about the need to get back in the race.
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by Michael O’Sullivan | Washington Post | May 19, 2021
Based on a true story, “Dream Horse” is a straightforward and unfussy feel-good drama about a group of ordinary people from a small Welsh town who decide to inject a little zest (and the risk of financial ruin) into their humdrum lives by breeding a racehorse, although none of them has the slightest experience in the field. Improbably, the stallion — named Dream Alliance for the motley assortment of naive and starry-eyed nobodies who form a syndicate to financially support, raise and race him — manages to do better than anyone could have imagined.
Anyone, that is, who has never seen a horse-racing movie before. (For the factual backstory, watch the charming documentary “Dark Horse.”)
The film’s protagonists, including the town drunk, the butcher and a lonely old lady — all of whom are colorful but clueless, with the exception of a savvy Cardiff accountant (Damian Lewis) who once owned and raced a thoroughbred — are not in it for the money but for something called the hwyl. It’s a Welsh concept (approximately pronounced “hoil”) that roughly translates to: a reason to get up in the morning.
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A Sense of Purpose, Companionship and Community
by Katie Walsh | LA Times | May 19, 2021
What’s in a name? For the plucky Welsh racehorse Dream Alliance, well, a lot. His mighty moniker reflects the big dreams of his unlikely owners, a syndicate of working-class folks from a tiny Welsh coal-mining village. Based on a true story, “Dream Horse” depicts the unlikely and amazing tale of Jan Vokes (played here by Toni Collette), who rallies her community to pitch in a few pounds a week and make a go of it in the high-stakes, high-class world of racehorses. In this rousing, inspirational film, one remarkable colt allows a group of people to regain a long lost connection with one another.
Welsh director Euros Lyn infuses the story of Dream Alliance, also the subject of the 2015 documentary “Dark Horse,” by Louise Osmond, with a warm sense of humor and heart, thrilling emotional stakes, and a deeply felt sense of local pride. The screenplay, by Neil McKay, demonstrates how something as formulaic as an underdog sports story can still resonate, with charming characters and relatable conflict.
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by AP News Wire | The Independent | May 20, 2021
The based-on-a-true-story “Dream Horse,” about a Welsh bartender who turns unlikely race horse breeder, is a feel-good movie that’s a little too heavy on the “feel-good” to really do the trick.
But as with all long shots that pay off, “Dream Horse” has its hard-to-deny charms. While it deviates little from the conventions of the “Billy Elliot”/”The Full Monty” formula, Euros Lyn’s film also doesn’t stray from a dependable course of underdog triumph, midlife renewal and community spirit.
The performances by Toni Collette as the determined Jan Vokes, and Owen Teale, as her curmudgeonly but dedicated husband with a mouth half full of teeth, go a long way to enlivening it. So does a sense of Welsh pride. Outside “How Green Was My Valley” and Anthony Hopkins’ recent awards acceptance speeches, the richly rugged, pastoral land on the western shores of Great Britain seldom attracts the spotlight like it does here. It’s in these two things — the Vokes’ relationship and the movie’s Welsh heart — that “Dream Horse” finishes ahead.