DARK HORSE

3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)

 

Living in a city like New York can turn movie-going into a nail-biting challenge, With over 10 arthouse theaters catering to indies of all shapes and sizes and there being at times as much as 15 new entries in a single weekend it’s truly a  miracle that one can get to see any of them in time, at least before they hit VOD or DVD status (which on occasion in regards to the latter format can take forever). Today was one of those days where I had a small list of films to see and my plan was to finally catch up with the animated April and the Extraordinary World at the IFC. However, logistics outside of this plan threw me off and in a way, what almost became a personal disaster turned into a much needed cathartic blessing in disguise. I found myself at the Angelika almost in a dream-state and choosing a documentary that had never even entered my plans: ireland’s aptly titled Dark Horse.

When you think of horse racing you think of high-bred animals being groomed by people with money to spend. For ages it’s been like that in the UK. But for Janet Vokes, a Welsh woman living a hardscrabble life working in Asda, a chain market equivalent of our Walmart or Target, the idea of grooming such an animal and training him to run races became not just a dream but a reality, one she somehow managed to convince her husband and friends into crowdfunding in order to foot the cost of purchasing such a mare, and then a stallion, in order to breed her winning horse, one the town named Dream Alliance after much pondering.

Louise Osmond’s sweet as can be documentary charts the life of Dream Alliance from the moment of birth into young adulthood when he begins to win his first races. This of course puts Janet and others into a state of euphoria and they decide to see how far they can go. And mind you — none of these people are actually motivated by the money and the glory: they just want to say that they too had a share of a sport geared only for people of a certain privilege. Dark Horse might suffer from being just a teensy bit predictable — after all, this is the classic story of the Little Engine that Could — and its thick Welsh accent may prompt viewers to switch on subtitles. Other than that, the documentary looks gorgeous in lush, almost hyperreal greens and that perpetual fog hovering over the small town where Janet lives, and compounded by footage of the races Dream Alliances participated in as well as tiny bits of reenactment here and there, this should be a perfect crowd pleaser.

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