Ben Crane (Kurt Russell)is a horse trainer/workaholic with an empty barn that often puts work ahead of his wife, Lilly (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter, Cale (Dakota Fanning). Wanting to ensure that Ben keeps his promise, Cale hurries out the door of the family farmhouse one morning and stops her father from leaving for work, unless she can come along. Begrudgingly, Ben agrees and the two ride to the racetrack. With Cale by his side, Ben takes a look at his boss's racehorse and advises Palmer (David Morse) not to run the horse due to its weak leg. Palmer refuses to listen and places the horse in the field. As feared, the horse, Soņador, was not ready and becomes badly injured in a fall. Palmer orders the horse be euthanized but with Cale in tow, Ben cannot bear to let his young daughter witness the horse's death. Ben pleads with Palmer to save the horse and to give him ownership. An argument ensues, leaving Ben with the injured horse and without a job, as Palmer fires the trainer. Already facing foreclosure, the dire financial straits are nearly enough to demolish Ben's spirit.
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As Ben works diligently to save the injured horse, nicknamed Sonya, Cale sneaks out nightly to deliver popsicles to see the stallion. A bond between the girl and the horse begins to form. Cale begins to visit her estranged Grandfather, "Pop," (Kris Kristofferson) who begins teaching the girl about training horses. When Ben argues that Sonya has been the ruin of the family, Lilly disputes this and reminds him that the horse has brought the family together again. Overhearing the conversation, Cale decides to ride away from home on Soņador. The entire family is shocked when the horse (with Cale aboard) darts quickly from the barn and refuses to stop. After selling the horse to his daughter, Ben begins training Soņador for the biggest race of the horse's and his life: The Breeder's Cup.
The film was loosely inspired by the 1993 story of Mariah's Storm, a promising filly injured before that autumn's stakes races. Mariah's Storm recovered and raced again in 2005, finishing far behind where the fictional Soņador was portrayed as finishing in "Dreamer."
Best part of story, including ending:
This was a beautiful movie. Facing what appeared to be insurmountable odds stacked against them, the Crane family did not give up and the rewards in the end were worth it.
Best scene in story:
I loved the scene at the Breeders Cup race when Ben looked at Lilly and smiled. It was a poignant moment that showed that from the perils his life had known, he was back in the saddle (no pun intended) again.
Opinion about the main character:
Ben could be a stubborn man and was so set in his ways that he was often unwilling to bend. Once he began to let others into his heart, his demeanor changed and this made him a more enjoyable character. Dakota Fanning's portrayal of Cale was endearing and in my view, made the movie even more beautiful than the story line.