Directed by: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte
Written by: Nicolaas Zwart
Starring: Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Darby Camp
Film Review by: Chris Olson
Dreamland Film Review
Out in cinemas in the UK on Friday 11th of December (if you can find one open), Dreamland stars Finn Cole and Margot Robbe in a dust bowl romance thriller that sees a bank robber (Robbie) take refuge in a family’s barn only for the son (Cole) to fall in love with her and assist her getaway, having initially signed on to try and apprehend her for a large bounty.
As You Are (2016) director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte elicits an engrossing atmosphere from Nicolaas Zwart’s story, set during the tumultuous dust bowl era for American farming, which saw hordes of families ruined by the impact of the weather on their crops. Much like The Grapes of Wrath, Dreamland, as the name suggests, is directly linked to the idea of the American Dream during this period and explores the delicate balance between good and evil when it comes to surviving the harsh realities of life in the U.S. of A.
Finn Cole brings an extraordinary amount of pathos to the role of Eugene, whom we meet at the beginning of the film as a “kid” stealing comics and too afraid to talk to girls. The coming-of-age aspect to the story sees him grow up real fast once introduced to the foul-mouthed outlaw Allison Wells - with an on-point performance by Margot Robbie who relishes the character’s opposition to social norms of the period. There is a brilliant chemistry between the two central performers and audiences with a penchant for classic crime capers like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) will cherish the intelligent blend of romance, crime, and drama.
Travis Fimmel is sadly underused, playing Eugene’s weathered step-dad. His rage at his step-son’s behaviour lacks potency and threat, coming across as lifeless as his character’s crops. Darby Camp puts in a decent turn, The Christmas Chronicles actor giving a hearty portrayal as Eugene’s sister and her adult voice provides the narration to the piece - adding to the nostalgic quality.
As a contribution to the ongoing narrative surrounding the American Dream, Dreamland offers little in the way of original takes. The film’s themes of growing up during a depression-era are heartfelt but familiar, and the modern relevance of them is questionable. Is this something viewers will find compatible with their current lives? Relating to characters who turn to crime in order to survive harsh times has been done but the methodology here seems quaint and may struggle to connect with a 2020 audience whose concerns are unlikely to be solved by becoming a bank robber and fleeing to Mexico.
Most of the scenes are low-key except for one dust storm whereby Fimmel attempts to get to the barn where Robbie hides out, which was compellingly suffocating. There is a use of stabbing cuts to innocuous visuals/memories like the ocean, or a piano, which are used to jolt the viewer, accompanied by sharp sound design. This added an unpredictable dimension to the film which, for the most part, lent intrigue. The strength of the movie lies in the commanding performances by Finn and Robbie though, whose unorthodox relationship makes for refreshing viewing given the period and plays out like a desperate search for freedom in the land of the free, regardless of the time.