Based on the life story of Genesis Potini, a chess prodigy who rises out of bipolar disorder-plagued obscurity to re-find his calling in coaching underprivileged kids in rural New Zealand, this pleasant, earnestly told biopic checks all the boxes of an inspirational drama. Seemingly insurmountable adversities followed by breakthroughs, setbacks and the inevitable moment of vindication altogether form a solid if overly familiar narrative arc. The cast is highly likable, led by Curtis who gives a commendable, deeply committed performance as someone haunted by glories and demons from the past. The warmth they bring to the picture alone makes it anything but a chore to sit through – if only the film had aimed a little higher than just that soft spot in our hearts.
The Dark Horse | Directed by James Napier Robertson (New Zealand, 2014) with Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston. Starts June 16.