Down a racing rabbit hole, Part 2

Eden Valley movie review.

by Trey Nosrac

One morning, I woke up and decided to make a movie set in the lowest level of professional baseball. The film project took 14 months of joyful toil, from sketching a rough outline through a long, grueling summer with a baseball team to opening night in front of a live audience.

The film Touching Home was very much a DIY project. The budget was microscopic, and my experience making films was less than microscopic. As you may imagine, the film was not A Field of Dreams, with Kevin Costner, or The Natural, with Robert Redford, but every day was a learning experience.

I learned that making a film is challenging and, like many things, much more complicated than it appears. Each finished movie, from a microbudget indie film to a Star Wars sequel, is a minor miracle.

Eden Valley is one of those miracles.

Recommending this gritty, low-budget movie is tricky business. My thumb is up, especially for harness racing enthusiasts, an introduction to a distant corner of the sport that few know exists or ever existed. This film is far from a mainstream production. Prepare yourself for low-budget filmmaking. Fortunately, a trailer here allows you to see what you are getting into.

After watching the trailer, much to my surprise and delight, I discovered that a tab on the top right allowed me to rent the entire film for 48 hours for a mere $5, much less than the price of my popcorn at a screening of Willy Wonka. Finding a 30-year-old foreign harness racing film available for rental was a happy and rare occurrence.

Let’s classify Eden Valley as a docudrama, one of the more obscure genres of filmdom. In a docudrama, the filmmakers create a working script with real locations, local people as performers, and actors free to go off-script. Often, the production of films such as this can veer into unchartered waters.

A basic synopsis for Eden Valley: Set in the 1980s in northeast England, a young inner-city street punk can avoid prison by living with his father in a rural section of the country. The kid has not seen his father for 10 years. The father is a weather-beaten harness horse trainer who walked out on his wife and young son to live an alternative lifestyle. He resides in a cramped trailer on a hardscrabble horse farm. The father and son collide but develop a cautious relationship based on a mutual affinity for horses.

Eden Valley is not always a pretty picture. I was reminded of Appalachia in America, sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal. Should you decide to visit via this movie, prepare yourself for human failure, profanity, live castration of a horse, cheating and swindling in racing, drinking, and a local dialect that screams for subtitles. The small budget fill shows harness racing at its most rudimentary level.

The movie’s pace will feel glacial for those used to watching the last 235 Marvel Movies or Mission Impossible 14. The racing scenes are intense, and yes, spoiler alert, a “big race” on which the plot hinges, a scene that seems mandatory for any horse racing movie, does occur, but the ending is complicated.

The bucolic pastoral scenes and the majesty of watching horses contrast with the ultra-gritty real world of those living in this area. Amber Films, a cooperative responsible for this movie, purchased a racehorse, lived at the locations, cast local harness racing participants in roles, and showed viewers glimpses of the various steps in training and racing racehorses.

From conception to completion, the whole film project of Eden Valley reminds me of our sport; small, hardy, interesting groups struggling against the odds. With a few clicks on your iPad and $5, the box office is open. Put your feet up and grab your popcorn. Visit an unknown corner of our sport.