By Carla Taylor (RIPple Puddle)
When I was a kid, I threw up on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyworld. It was a consequence of a long afternoon of Florida heat, what felt like 100% humidity and a delicious melted hot fudge sundae. I don’t like being tossed around.
Documentaries sometimes give me the same feeling; there’s a certain awareness of the orchestration involved, the person holding the camera, the edits that end up on the floor of someone’s Macbook pro.
Dark Horse is a documentary with only mild manipulation. At first glance, the most appealing aspect of this movie is that it is an underdog tale, one that exposes class-structure problems in Great Britain.
The story is set in the small mining town with the seemingly unpronouncable name, Cefn Fforest. Jan Vokes is a waitress and janitor at the local supermarket with a dream to breed a racehorse. She had helped her father breed budgies as a child and the allure had never left her.
Her story is told through nostalgic shots, full of saturated color and grainy texture. We get a chance to watch it unravel as bystanders, catching glimpses of Welsh town life through half open doors and rain-streaked windows.
Jan’s motivations are relatable: she wants to leave her mark. To do so, she must race her horse, Dream Alliance, against Saudi billionaires and English high society.
With the support of twenty three other townspeople, she is able to breed, train and race Dream. What happens next is a mixture of happenstance, despair and camaraderie. It tugs nostalgically at the viewer, and make us yearn for a similar sense of community.
Were there moments when I suspected the narrative to be too tight for real life? Sure. But I came away very entertained and totally uplifted… I left the theater with a feeling of moxie. If the amusement was formulaic, I guess I was just enjoying it too much to notice.
And that’s just what a good ride is supposed to do.