Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) works in a small Welsh village on the checkout at the local Co-Op supermarket during the day and as a barmaid at night, whilst dreaming of a bigger life.
At home, Jan’s husband Brian (Owen Teale) reclines in his easy chair watching TV, while second guessing farming medical procedures. Jan’s parents living nearby, require plenty of assistance despite her father chipping away at her self confidence at every opportunity.
Jan’s life is stale, she has lost her “one thing”, along with the town itself (Cefn Fforest). Stumbling on an ex-syndicate Horse racing owner Howard Davies (Damian Lewis), an unlikely dream starts to germinate. Buy a half decent brood mare, pay stud fees, breed new racehorse, train horse, race said horse and create a reason to get up in the morning.
On a scale of one to ten, this is 0.05 on the likely to succeed scale, especially when you have no money, the community has no money, your main financial accountant (Davies) nearly lost everything in his last syndicate and one last point, the horse needs to be stabled on the family allotment.
However, likely or not, the story is very much based on the true adventure the Vokes family and assorted eclectic villagers embarked on, culminating in 2009 with….well watch the film or Google depending on your preference.
Each syndicate participant chipped in meagre money week in, week out, eventually allowing the foal “Dream Alliance” to be born, stabled and eventually trained. Despite the Vokes turning up in an old horse float, with other owners arriving by chopper to check discuss their stabled equine playthings.
How the story plays out is largely formulaic but completed with sympathy for the real people on which the story is based. Collette manages to create yet another role, far removed from her many other persona’s, willing and able to make that character believable in whatever setting, a skill not to be underestimated.
Teale fresh from Game of Thrones fame, manages to capture Brian’s dormant passion for life, blossoming as the couple both find something to believe in again. The village itself, all greys, stray ponies and closed shop fronts with ironic Banksy type slogan “It can’t be that bad, the pigeons keep coming back”, begins to awaken as the story unfolds.
Whilst based on truth, this is a lightly fictionalized version that stays true to the main facts and sketches an accurate picture of an ex-mining Welsh village, that has lost both it’s mine and sense of community.
As expected Lewis and Collette add star power to what could have been a smaller story. However, the film remains grounded with wholly believable accents and while unlikely to set the box office alight, represents an inspirational story pushing our COVID worries back for a couple of hours.
Formulaic maybe but a heartwarming and largely true story with fine acting, with it’s heart in the right place, right on the sleeve next to the tissues and champagne flute.