with Horse and Hound

Dark Horse: An Earnest and Sweet Documentary

Janet Vokes, a barmaid in Wales, had bred pigeons and whippets. She figured, why not breed a horse? She wheedled friends and neighbors—twenty-three in all—to join her in a collective by chipping in ten pounds a week for expenses.

They bought a mare that had never won a race and had a habit of throwing her riders. And they bought a cheap stallion. In the course of time, a foal arrived. The story of these self-described commoners progresses through ups and downs for ten years and proves that “scrappiness and horse sense are underrated qualities.”

Dark Horse, the documentary film by Louise Osmond won an audience award for world cinema at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Now appearing in theaters, the film is, according to Stephanie Merry writing for The Washington Post, an “utterly charming look at the unlikely success of Dream Alliance, a racehorse bred by a barmaid in a down-and-out Welsh mining village.”

The people interviewed bring warmth and humor to the film, in particular, Vokes’s husband Brian. He’s a coal deliveryman whose tattoos and missing front teeth are distinctly at odds with most of the owners against whom their horse competes.

The film is “earnest, sweet and told with sentimentality, featuring shots of horses frolicking in fields set against beautiful string music by Anne Nikitin. Surprisingly, the effect isn’t melodramatic or overbearing, but disarming and endearing.”

“Dark Horse” (Sony Picture Classics): 3.5 stars
Rating: PG (contains horses in peril and strong language)
Running time: 1:24

Click to read Merry’s entire article.

Posted June 9, 2016