Dreamland (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Dreamland (2019) is a fantastic movie directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and written by Nicolaas Zwart. This film is a period piece set in dustbowl-era Texas, which follows Eugene Evans (Finn Cole), who is on the cusp of manhood but living in a time where all seems hopeless. He lives on a dead farm with his mother (Kerry Condon), step-father (Travis Fimmel), and half-sister Phoebe (Darby Camp) – who is also narrating the story as an adult looking back, voiced by Lola Kirke. Eugene spends his days reading crime comics and dreaming of the waters of Mexico, where his biological father fled when Eugene was younger.

Dreamland is a great showcase for all the talent involved

Eugene’s life takes a turn towards fantasy when Allison Wells (Margot Robbie), who is wanted for robbing banks and murdering several people, is on the run and believed to be in the area. He joins the group of people looking to find her and fetch the $10,000 reward for her capture, which would greatly improve his family’s life.

Robbie has proven several times that she is a very talented actress – but I think this is one of her best performances. She gets to do a wealth of different things in this movie, and her talents are up for it. Allison has to be charming in order to convince this young boy not to turn her in for the reward money, and she has to be ruthless in the scenes that showcase her criminal activity. There are several moments where Allison shows vulnerability and fear – but no matter what is asked of her, Robbie delivers.

While Robbie is a proven veteran, Cole is someone I’ve not really encountered previously. I enjoyed his performance as much as I did Robbie’s. Eugene is naive but is also longing to be his own man…a fact that his step-father – himself a deputy hunting Allison – constantly reminds Eugene that he must become. Eugene is a complex character who is torn between the real world and his dreams; hence the name of the film.

While all the performances in the film are solid, its the direction by Joris-Peyrafitte and the production as a whole really sold me on this film. There are many interesting cinematic choices utilized here, like shooting the “dream” sequences in 4:3 on actual film or the choice to film the dust storms practical (and they stand out because of this). The big sequence that features first Fimmel and then Cole entering a brutal storm is both harrowing from a story standpoint, but also visually stunning as the dirt whips around, pushing the characters back. All the aesthetic aspects of this film are rather strong, and make an interesting story with solid characters all the more fun to watch.

Final thoughts…

Dreamland was a film that I went into with little interest for, and walked out completely in love with. There are so many moments from this film that keep replaying in my head, and since was the last film I saw at Tribeca, it ended my festival experience on a strong high note. As soon as this film becomes available to see, I recommend that you do so. Dreamland earns the Must See rating.

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