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Dare to Dream

average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Apr 26, 2022

Film Reviews
Dare to Dream
Directed by:
Alex Bates
Written by:
Alex Bates
Jonny Labey, Sapphire Brewer-Merchant, Bryan Ferguson

As movies like Boiling Point, reality shows like Masterchef, and Gordon Ramsey’s entire existence has shown; being a chef is stressful business. Dare to Dream is a story about the unbearable pressure of the cooking industry, which when coupled with a self-imposed desire to prove his worth to his father, brings one young chef to the brink.


Upon losing out to rival Emily (Sapphire Brewer-Merchant) in a culinary arts competition, Theo (Jonny Labey) resolves to win the next year’s competition to prove his worth to himself, and his domineering father Ryan (Bryan Ferguson), a successful celebrity chef whose affection Theo is desperate to attain. Theo’s past with his dad is explored whilst he punishingly pushes himself to the limit to live up to his father’s shadow.


It is a funny coincidence that Dare to Dream finds itself released close to the debut of Netflix smash-hit Boiling Point, given that both involve chefs pushed to the limit of sanity by the pressures of their industry, and run into struggles involving drugs and the failure to live up to a celebrity who they are close to personally. But this short should not be seen as just a starter to the feature-length main course. Director Alex Bates’ focus on a complex, toxic father-son relationship and more artistic interpretation of protagonist Theo’s struggles make Dare to Dream stand out as both an emotionally impactful and visually exciting story.


Jonny Labey’s performance as Theo is impressive and multi-layered, and he brilliantly shoulders an intense leading role. Theo is steely and cool at times, broken and distraught at others. But Labey’s command of the role means this never steers into histrionic territory. His chemistry with Bryan Ferguson, who plays father Ryan, is crucially important factor in portraying a fractured relationship between the pair – one that is often antagonistic yet with a lingering respect and love. Sapphire Brewer-Merchant’s role is relatively small as rival Emily, but her excellent understated showing tells enough for the audience to understand that her and Theo’s rivalry is built on a healthy respect – a positive influence on the pair to push each other rather than the negative one Ryan exerts.


Alex Bates takes full advantage of the cinematic potential of cookery, with meticulous focus on the kitchen scenes which accentuate the culinary arts to a thrilling and tense pursuit of perfection. The metronomic score in these scenes forces a piercing concentration from viewers, as they are sucked into the pressure of Theo’s world. As his mental state declines and psychotic episodes increase, the film becomes darker and filled with shadow – mirroring Theo’s isolation and unhealthy focus on his own shortcomings.


The film does have its flaws, with the year-long timescale not realised particularly effectively. Ryan’s apparent esteemed status as a celebrity chef never really comes across either, and the significance of the culinary arts competition (or possible relative lack of significance, given Theo’s tendency to overburden himself) could also have been established better. These troubles with world-building are likely a result of the shorter runtime, and do not end up detracting from the key themes of the film. The film’s conclusion also feels overly theatrical, stagy and dramatically convenient – ironically almost an exact criticism Boiling Point shares.


But aside from this, a strong chef’s kiss for Dare to Dream, a fine example of how to build character and relationships and blend them with cranked-up intensity to produce gripping drama. A few missteps with its storytelling aside, this short film deserves a Michelin star.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Short Film, Indie Feature Film
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