In a sport normally only accessible for the wealthy elite of British society, a group of friends from a mining village in Wales breed a champion and break the barriers of the class system. But Dark Horse is far more than a film about friends who get interested in horse racing. BAFTA nominated director Louise Osmond has crafted an enchanting film that embodies themes of aspiration, commitment, overcoming, trust and love. Set in one of the poorest villages in Wales in the United Kingdom, local barmaid Jan Vokes enlists her neighbors to pool their money and form a syndicate to buy and breed a racehorse. They respond by naming the horse ‘Dream Alliance’. Dream becomes a rallying point of pride for the village and starts winning races, propelling this group of ordinary villagers into the cloistered owner’s paddocks of the racing world. When Dream is injured, the villagers roll up their sleeves and work to put him on the path to recovery. In a village where unemployment and economic depression overshadowed everyone’s lives, Dream’s success was even sweeter.
The film is beautifully shot in the valleys of Wales and the west country of England. It’s not all pretty, though, and Osmond contrasts the bleakness of the village architecture and the dreary weather with the vitality and excitement of racing day, and lively interior pub scenes—the heart of village life. Filmed with a mix of re-enactments of local races, and edited together with footage from some of Dream’s actual competitions, the film has an immediate and real-time feel. Dark Horse reveals a life where richness is found in relationships and community, rising above economic hardship.
While watching this movie, you are in for a treat if you listen carefully for local idioms, colloquialisms and humor. Osmond gives us a rare gift by making the interviews with the syndicate members seem like we are sitting down in a cozy Welsh pub to talk with old friends. Their excitement is palpable and emotional. We are drawn in, and we laugh and cry with them. Most of us can resonate with the themes presented in this movie. We can affirm the sense of community, love and shared vision that it took to buy and breed Dream Alliance. Together they defeated disadvantage and claimed a place beyond the one dealt to them by society. For myself, I saw a beautiful opportunity for these friends to achieve something greater than themselves by working together. I want to say that I could also place my hat in the ring in a situation like this and make a commitment to others in arenas that are not typical for me. I want to experience the surprise and joy of learning to recognize and experience God’s beauty and community, the kingdom, flourishing “outside” the walls of the church. As we often hear at Fuller “God is at work in the world today…” and I would add…even at the races!