The Cup (PG) ★ ★ ★ ½

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IN 2002, Damien Oliver rode the Irish-trained Media Puzzle to Melbourne Cup victory. Next day, he attended the funeral of his beloved older brother Jason (Daniel McPherson), killed when his horse fell in barrier trials five days earlier.

Those events make a very agreeable film that doesn’t care whether you are a horse-racing fan or not. Stephen Curry is impressive as Damien. Brendan Gleeson is unstretched playing Irish trainer Dermot Weld. So, too, are Shaun Micalleff as Lee Freedman, for whom Damien usually rode, but who had no horse in that race, and Bill Hunter as Bart Cummings.

A line in “The Cup” asserts that Australia has more race horses than the US, Britain and Europe together (my wife and step-daughter have owned a couple that weren’t fast enough to win on the track).

Hopefully, its strong Australian cultural element will not deprive it of legs, heart and lungs to run well in cinemas overseas.

Jason’s death isn’t its only font of deep emotional undercurrents. Writer/director Simon Wincer has assembled a large cast and archive footage to create impressive visual authenticity. Indeed, “The Cup” joins his TV series ”Lonesome Dove” (1989) and the 1983 feature “Phar Lap” in restoring my faith in him after the dreadful “Harlequin” (1980). And the horses are magnificent.

At all cinemas

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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