Mean Dreams Reviews
But there are some rather beautiful scenes between the two young stars (a new boy in town who meets the girl next door) as their relationship develops. A moment that stands out for me in the film is at a time when the truth about Casey's family life (Caraway's daughter) is beginning to surface. They stand looking at the horizon, dreaming about what it means to escape their past and to live for a different future. They feel stuck, and what this brings to mind for her in this moment is a longing for the ocean for the sea. This is where she is able to gain perspective, as stuck in the mud of her home life, she admits that although she can still see, she can't quite see far enough.
And this is really the trajectory of the narrative, that pushes us towards some complicated choices and decisions on the part of the young stars. Underlying all of this are questions of forgiveness, of letting go of the past, of confronting fears. And by the end they are faced with the toughest question of all, one that will determine how the both of them move forward. Of course it all plays out in what is a thriller type film, but it is a thriller that happens to have a lot of heart at the same time.
In this film, Paxton plays Wayne Caraway, a rural Michigan police officer and single dad, who is pretty bad at both roles - and a pretty bad person in general. When local boy Jonas Ford (Josh Wiggins, the star of 2015's "Max") starts seeing Wayne's teenage daughter, Casey (Sophie NÚlisse, who played the title role in 2013's "The Book Thief"), Wayne is pretty... mean about shattering Jonas' dreams of getting closer to Casey. Mostly it's because Jonas isn't shy about trying to protect Casey from Wayne's abuse, and because Wayne doesn't want Jonas nosing around and discovering any of his other... activities.
After Jonas fails to get his father (Joe Cobden) or Wayne's boss (Colm Feore) to intervene on Casey's behalf, he takes matters into his own hands. When he witnesses an example of just how bad a man that Wayne is, Jonas steals some money, grabs Casey and hits the road. Of course, Wayne comes after his daughter - with a (literal) vengeance. As Jonas and Casey struggle to get away from Casey's dad for good, they confront the harsh realities of life on the run (especially as it pertains to two teenagers in the middle of nowhere), break some laws and put their safety and the safety of others at risk along the way.
"Mean Dreams" is a small, but entertaining coming-of-age movie. The two teen protagonists aren't quite Bonnie and Clyde, but their saga is engaging and their love story is affecting. NÚlisse and Wiggins are two rising young stars whose emerging talents shine through in sympathetic roles and Paxton does his usual expert work as one really bad dude. The script (by Kevin Coughlin and Ryan Grassby) and the direction (by Nathan Morlando) keep the action and dialog both unusually grounded and fairly unpredictable, especially for this kind of film. The score and the cinematography (filmed creatively and beautifully in northern Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie) are also very good, especially for a movie made on a small budget. The film is a bit lacking in gravitas, but it's worth a look - to see Paxton in his last major role - and for the overall quality of the film itself. "B+"
As victims, we get two sweet teenagers stumbling through a crush, saddled with life in a a bleak farming community, who, due to unfortunate circumstance, become fugitives on the lam. It's meat and potatoes cinema: good vs. bad, with little chance of anything going right. Afterall, the cops are the bad guys: whatcha gonna do?
"Mean Dreams" captures vast landscape loneliness, no future hopelessness, tense survival conflict, with fumbling teenagers groping for their footing in life. It's a tense, gripping thrill ride that offers no easy answers, and very muddy avenues. A great down and dirty movie, in the literal sense.