“Hywl” is a Welsh word that is described in the film as a “feeling of emotional motivation and energy” – and “Dream Horse” has indeed imbued its likeable story with plenty of “hwyl”. (Pronounced “hoo-eel”).

It’s a story with all the hallmarks of a typically British feel-good movie in the tradition pioneered by the Ealing comedies of the post-WWII years when the country needed all the laughs it could raise, but everyone should see this film. It reminds us all to keep dreaming and striving for greatness. Despite setbacks, we can’t let our fears hold us back. We can and will succeed if we never give up.

“Dream Horse” is predictable and manipulative to a fault but, sparked by Toni Collette as Jan Vokes, a strong sense of sincerity and commitment to the subject matter helps it cross the finishing line. (“Finishing line” as in horse racing- get it?)

Right at the beginning of the movie, there is a memorable dialogue (I wonder how many will have remembered it?) as Brian Vokes gets really into this TV show about a guy castrating an alpaca: “It’s a two-man job, see. One to hold ’em down by the legs and the other to nip off the squealers.” Not for the squeamish, I’d think.

It was all very light-hearted with lots of Welsh humour, singing and drinking- ah, and how the Welsh can sing and drink!-  a working-class community forged together through all the ups and downs that life had thrown at them. And they prevailed! Even though I knew the outcome, the racing scenes, as Dream Alliance galloped its way through the field to the front, had me at the edge of my (cinema) seat! The excitement was truly catching.

Our President, Prof Dr Kurt Tiroch, justifiably proud, announced that last night’s show was only one of many events the Austro-British Society, three alone in August, fielded successfully for the members’ benefits since lifting restrictions due to the pandemic. He informed us that from the 45 registrations, 42 members attended.

The Americans tend to call it “Vin d’honneur”, drinks only at the end of a function. The drinks, bonhomie and animated conversation rounded off this very successful and enjoyable evening.

However, where there is light, there is also shadow. Where there is a success, there is envy. A member of the Society directed me to the following sad news.

The stable at Cefn Fforest, Blackwood in South Wales, a poor mining village, owned by Brian and Jan Vokes (in the movie we watched Brian building it), who bred Dream Alliance, the Welsh National winner, was burned to the ground in an arson attack on 26 November 2017. The fire brigade found the two-year-old Impossible Dream burnt to death in the stable, but the mare, Juwireya, had broken out and was found in the village badly burnt. Impossible Dream meant to go into pre-training with Philip Hobbs, who trained Dream Alliance to his big win. Both the fire service and Gwent Police are carrying out an investigation. I do not know whether they were successful in catching the arsonist.

Wolfgang Geissler

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