Jonas Ford (Josh Wiggins) is a rural farm boy with a strong moral compass in Nathan Morlando's Mean Dreams. He has clear ideas of right and wrong, good and evil underpinned by the belief that good people deserve to have thing go right for them. Enter into his world Casey Caraway (Sophie Nelisse) who moved in next door to the Ford rural family farm with her dad Wayne Caraway (Bill Paxton) who has roots in the area taking a job as a local cop. One of the first acts in the new home is to drill a bolt on the inside of her room after taking her dog Blaze for a walk in the yard.
Casey and Jonas hit it off almost a little too quickly as they roam the fall flat rural landscape of windswept tall grass, leaves and dirt roads the season that splits summer from winter. They both have troubled homes Jonas pulled out of school to work the failing family farm, a convenient target for his dad as his mom has withdrawn to be sad just about every day. Casey pushed into the role of maid, wife and daughter for her dad who is prone to fits of rage as he wonders around the property with a tumbler of whisky in hand. The pair need to get away then Sargent Caraway provides the means when his funds from a drug deal ends up in Jonas' hands.
Director Nathan Morlando more than tips his cap to Terrence Malick's Badlands with this film. All the elements are present the quiet teen girl, blue collar boy in a middle of nowhere rural setting heading out on the run. The biggest drawback of the piece is the scrip. The narrative is telegraphed. As plot point is introduced and it's obvious where the story is going to next. The reason to watch is the excellent cinematography work of Seven Cosens who uses the vast Northern Ontario Autumn palate to bring out rich yellow, browns and burnt oranges vividly on screen.
The two young leads Josh Wiggins and rising star Sophie Nelisse of Monsieur Lazhar fame hold the screen well quickly getting the audience to care about their characters Jonas & Sophie. Bill Paxton puts his own twist on the abusive dad corrupt, alcoholic cop role as Sgt Caraway. Look for veteran character actor Colm Feore with significantly more screen time then expected as the local Chief.
Mean Dreams features several strong acting performances in a picturesque rural setting framed by the attentive eye of cinematographer Steven Cosens. The story has moments of tension mixed with displays of harshness but ultimately fails to break new ground or hold a sustained level of suspense due to pedestrian writing. The visuals are pleasing and I expect great performances are sure to follow from the two young leads but ultimately this is not the film where either will make their mark.
** Out of 4.
Mean Dreams | Nathan Morlando | Canada | 2016 | 108 Minutes.
Tags: Family Farm, Drug Deal, Runaway, Drug Money, Corrupt Cop, Abusive Father, Right vs. Wrong, Good vs. Evil.