There are documentaries, and then there are documentaries. Louise Osmond’s “Dark Horse” is one of those “then there are” docs.

It’s an amazing, heart-tugging, sentimental story of a small village in Wales, now long past the era of coal mining. The townsfolk involved here are middle-aged and above. The women cook, some work in Wal-Mart-like stores, while the men, some retired and toothless, sit in the local pub and drink stout while watching soccer on the telly.

Janet Volkes, a barmaid and local supermarket worker who always dreamed of owning a racehorse, came on the scene. Pretty good combo for a movie, wouldn’t you say?

Her husband, one of those bar-sitters, wanted none of it. It was too late in the world for such dreams, he thought. He didn’t know who he was trying to rob of her dream.

Janet pinched her pennies and pounds, went out horse shopping, and came up with a dreary but proud looking mare.

Janet, now full of her dream, went around and pulled together a flock of working-class friends who put together a plan to form an alliance. Now why didn’t Noah think of putting a horse on board? He didn’t have the dream power of Mrs. Volkes.

The plan was for all of her alliance to pitch in 10 pounds a week to cover the cost of raising the foal. So was born the name “Dream Alliance.” Actually, they went through a dozen names that didn’t work, so they threw them into a hat and pulled one out. Sometimes that’s how dreams are born.

The film carries us through the money game, the scouting of a proper stud, the birthing, and the raising of the newborn future “Rocky” of racing horses.

All of this is beautifully directed by Osmond, someone I’ve not heard of, but who is clearly gifted and has strong credentials: “Richard 111: The King in the Car Park”.

Naturally, the film, like racing itself, is full of ups and downs, thrills and heartbreaks and flutters.

Osmond keeps us informed step by step, frame by beautifully crafted frame sprinkled with the talking heads of the shareholders and the village onlookers.

“Dark Horse” reminded me in many ways of an equestrian “Hoosiers,” David Anspaugh’s 1986 heart-clutching basketball classic, what with its embrace of local spirit, last minute heart stoppers and bare bones passion.

We learn that British horse racing isn’t straight away clean and neat. It’s all about big scary hedges and wires. Damn the mud and rain, full speed ahead. If the horse spills and dumps the rider, both can be dead in minutes, because the race doesn’t stop to save them. Can Dream Alliance beat the odds, run the grass gauntlets, and save the long, foggy days for the working-class dreamers? You’ll not be disappointed. The ending ain’t perfect, but neither is life for humans or horses.

Osmond’s camera gives us a season by season view of the dark hills, the sunny pastures and the hanging-on guts of a country of people slipping on the ice of the new age.

It’s a doc you’re going to embrace with both arms.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.