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The Dark Horse

Based on the true story of one-time Maori speed-chess champ Genesis Potini, 'The Dark Horse' is a harrowing tale of his life and his struggle with bipolar disorder. After spending time in a mental hospital, he takes shelter in his brother's house where he hears about a teens' chess club. He joins them and leads the charge to not just win the Auckland Junior National Championship, but to reclaim their lives— together.
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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

80

CineVue by Ben Nicholson

The deft and highly emotive handling of his condition and the wider ramifications of his story make The Dark Horse a lot more than merely the against-the-odds chess story that it may initially appear to be.
60

The Guardian by Benjamin Lee

The script could have done without the odd bout of heavy-handed chess symbolism (“a king for a king”) but it’s a solidly entertaining drama with an intriguingly unconventional lead.
70

Village Voice by Bilge Ebiri

James Napier Robertson's film combines several potentially tired subgenres — the inspirational-teacher drama, the mental illness drama, and the gang thriller — but, helped immeasurably by Curtis's performance, makes something new out of them.
80

Time Out London by Cath Clarke

It’s a film with the texture and truth of life, and at its heart is a beautiful performance by Cliff Curtis, who never in a million years will be nominated for an Oscar, but deserves one.
80

Empire by David Hughes

The heartfelt telling of a truly extraordinary true story with a mesmerising central performance.
60

The Telegraph by Mike McCahill

Robertson gives himself and his actors time to ponder the board and build convincing relationships and tensions: he’s especially deft around his younger performers, allowing them to register as distinct, often defiant personalities.
90

Variety by Peter Debruge

The Dark Horse is as good a title as any for a film that takes an overplayed genre — the inspirational mentor story — and still manages to surprise, sneaking up to deliver a powerful emotional experience within a formula we all know by heart

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