Published Sep 15, 2015Louise Osmond's Dark Horse is a charming documentary about a small town that pools their funds together to breed and raise a champion racehorse. The film exceeds its conventional rags-to-riches narrative thanks to its sly class commentary and playful nature.
By mapping out the deeply rooted economy of British horse racing, Osmond shows how a team of barflies broke down the social and economic barriers faced in the sport thanks to some clever strategies and a bit of luck. Think of it as Moneyball meets Mike Leigh's slice-of-life social realism.
At times, Dark Horse feels like a low-key heist film, as Osmond's interviews show how the team conspired to find the right horse and win local races before moving on to the big leagues. Like most capers, half the fun is in the planning, and while the film loses steam in its second half without much conflict in the way, the film's small stakes make for an enjoyable ride.
Osmond excels in her interviews with the eclectic horse owners in the Welsh town of Cefn Fforest. Unlike other docs about small-town subjects who are thrust into the spotlight, there's a charming naturalism and unaffected quality to their behaviour. Their goal wasn't exactly social upheaval, but they relish the opportunity to show off their rebellious side. Dark Horse comes highly recommended. (Mongrel Media)