DARK HORSE (2016)

"Heartwarming Documentary"

Quality:
Content: +1 Discernment required for young children.

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Language
Violence
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What You Need To Know:

DARK HORSE is a motivational, underdog documentary about the dreams of a small Welsh mining town. Led by Janet Vokes, 23 citizens bought and bred “Dream Alliance,” a working-class racehorse in a racing world run by the wealthy elite. The story is just as much about the community brought together by the horse as it is about the horse itself. From breeding, to training, to racing, Dream Alliance works his way up the ladder and becomes a force to be reckoned with in the racing world. The owners overcome all obstacles, from financial troubles to life-threatening injuries, to see Dream Alliance compete in the Welsh National race.

DARK HORSE does an exceptional job capturing the spirit of the racing world as seen through the eyes of the Welsh miners. Numerous biblical truths can be pulled from the inspiring story, but the movie itself isn’t overtly Christian. Lacking any really offensive objectionable content, DARK HORSE is a great family-friendly movie that teaches positive values of believing in yourself, working together and enduring all obstacles. It does contain, however, some gambling and alcohol use.

Content:

(Pa, B, Ro, C, L, V, N, A, M) Light, mixed pagan worldview with moral and Romantic elements about a group of poor people who come together to pursue a dream of owning a winning racehorse, plus one horse owner specifically says he’s not a religious man, but he prayed anyway for success; several mild profanities including “Oh My God” and a couple European obscenities such as “bloody”; brief violence involving an intense horse race where jockeys are thrown off horses, trampled by other horses, and horses smash into each other on the tracks; a shot of an older man taking his shirt off and waving it around his head in celebration; the group in the movie often meets in a pub, seen drinking beers, beers being poured, etc.; tattoos, gambling is depicted on the race tracks and members of the group in the movie often bet on their horse, Dream Alliance.

More Detail:

DARK HORSE is a well-done, motivational documentary telling an underdog story. It presents some positive messages of never giving up and working together to follow your dreams no matter the opposition.

The story begins in a small Welsh mining town where Janet Vokes worked as a bar maid, dreaming of the day when she would own her own racehorse. The movie’s strength lies in its ability to convey the absurdity of Janet’s dream. Horse racing, especially in England, is often called a “sport of kings” because only the elite are allowed to play. Many horse owners invest billions of dollars on breeding winning horses. So, Janet’s dream was financially and socially impossible. Even though she worked in a bar and only had experience breeding pigeons and whippits, Janet refused to give up this dream.

However, the real protagonist of the movie isn’t Janet, nor even her horse, “Dream Alliance,” but the people of her small hometown. The town itself is a small mining town where most people quit school at 15 to get jobs and support their families. Janet’s husband, Brian, embodies the people of the town. He’s a simple coal miner with tattoos and two missing front teeth. Brian was the first to believe in Janet’s dream. He always believed she could do anything she put her mind to do, but they needed the help of the community to see the dream through to its conclusion.

So, 23 lower class members of the town answered the call, written on the chalkboard of the pub, to become partial owner of Janet’s horse. Janet decided to name the horse, “Dream Alliance” because they were an alliance of people with one single dream. They didn’t just want to own a horse, however, they wanted their horse to win.

The rest of the movie documents the racing journey of Dream Alliance, from training through its inaugural run where it came in 2nd place, to its retirement. It was hard to tell what was more shocking: the fact that the horse actually won, or that this group of rag-tag commoners were the owners of a prize-winning horse.

The filmmakers behind DARK HORSE do a fantastic job of bringing the audience along for the journey, both with racing footage and more in-depth sections about the town’s character. The town comes alive and rallies around the horse as Dream Alliance wins one race after another. However, not everything is roses. The owners of Dream Alliance beat all odds of manners and class to get where they are, but can Dream Alliance overcome his background, medical conditions and a horrific injury to win the coveted Welsh National?

Full of suspense and heart, DARK HORSE will both entertain and motivate audiences to follow their own dreams, no matter how unlikely. It has very positive messages of never giving up and taking unlikely chances. The people of the town dreamed together, worked together and won together, becoming a great example of the power of community. The movie succeeds in helping viewers feel the town’s triumph.

That said, the movie does have some problems. First, it touts the message of believing in oneself, rather than trusting in God to overcome obstacles. In fact, one member of the syndicate makes it a point to say he’s “not a religious man,” but that even he said a prayer for Dream Alliance. The man’s statement establishes the idea that prayer can lead to miracles, but it doesn’t overtly attribute such miracles to any sort of deity, let alone Jesus Christ. This leaves DARK HORSE as a simple “follow your dreams” story for a wide range of audiences and beliefs. However, the lack of any really objectionable foul language, sex, nudity, or violence, combined with a positive message, still makes DARK HORSE a wonderfully entertaining, deeply moving and uplifting movie for all ages. It’s no wonder, then, that this exceptional doc took home the jury prize at Sundance in 2015. DARK HORSE does contain some gambling and alcohol use, however.

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