Feel-good documentary ‘Dark Horse’ delivers an inspiring sports story

Dark Horse

Three and a half stars

Dark Horse Directed by Louise Osmond. Rated PG. Opens Friday at Century Suncoast.

The story told in Louise Osmond’s Sundance-winning documentary Dark Horse doesn’t need to be embellished, and Osmond wisely knows how to get out of the way and let the people involved tell it. It’s one of those remarkable underdog sports stories that sound too good to be true, and while a narrative film based on it might seem contrived, the documentary approach ensures that all of the far-fetched twists and turns achieve the maximum impact. Osmond focuses on a handful of residents from the working-class Welsh town of Blackwood, who pooled their money in the early ’00s to purchase a racehorse and enter a sport typically reserved for moneyed aristocrats.

The members of the syndicate, as they call themselves, make for fascinating interview subjects, self-deprecating and self-aware, and Osmond augments their accounts with archival footage, some evocative shots of the town and its surrounding countryside, and occasional re-enactments, which can come off as a bit awkward. For the most part, though, Dark Horse is very well-crafted, building suspense (at least for viewers who aren’t familiar with the true story, which was big news in the U.K.) and teasing out its themes of class conflict without leaning on them too heavily. Any eventual feel-good narrative film based on this story will have a lot to live up to.

Tags: Film
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