Dreamland is amongst the dozens of films that debuted at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival this week. It stars Margot Robbie (I, Tonya, Suicide Squad), alongside her co-stars Finn Cole, Darby Camp and Stephen Dinh, walked the red carpet on Monday at the world premiere of the film. It also stars Travis Fimmel (Vikings) and Kerry Condon (HBO’s Rome).
Directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, and based on the screenplay written by Nicolaas Zwart, Dreamland tells a captivating, coming of age story of a 15-year-old Eugene Evans (Finn Cole) who, with a bit of help from his best friend (Stephen Dinh), embarks on a manhunt for a wanted bank robber by the name of Allison Wells. But his quest is cut fairly short when, to his surprise, he discovers the dangerous damsel in distress is hiding right in his backyard.
The film is narrated by Eugene’s kid sister Phoebe (Darby Camp) who not only witnesses her older brother’s antics first-hand but is also the only person who seems to genuinely care about Eugene enough to tell his story. As the film progresses, Phoebe does a great job at conveying the events that ultimately transform her teenage brother into someone that not even she can recognize.
Dreamland opens up with a brief introduction to Eugene upbringing. With an alcoholic and abuser as a father, Eugene’s childhood was nothing short of rocky for him and his mother. His father eventually abandons his family, and his mother ends up re-marrying to Deputy George Evans (Travis Fimmel) and Phoebe is eventually brought in to the picture.
There’s a quick jump in time and Eugene is now a young man. The scenes are primarily set in the ’30s. Dry, barren landscapes of a small town in Texas are the backdrop for almost the entire film. Severe sandstorms as tall as the Empire State Building swallow the homes in the area once every couple of weeks, sometimes more often than that, and residents attend churches that are about the size of a standard classroom today.
So, a beautiful yet mysterious women committing a few armed robberies and murders at the local banks is probably the most exciting thing that has ever transpired in the boring town. Allison Wells is an enticing blonde bombshell with sneaky tendencies. After losing her partner-in-crime and possible lover in a robbery gone wrong, she flees the crime scene and wanders for miles through the drylands which leads her right to the spacious tool shed behind Eugene’s house.
Sure enough, Eugene discovers Allison’s hiding spot, and once the initial shock vanishes she realizes that her biggest threat is merely a naive teenage kid. She uses this to her advantage and preys on his innocence, easily convincing him to help her escape to Mexico. Eugene is still in the ongoing period of puberty, so of course a woman of Allison’s caliber being “interested” in him is enough for him to throw away his last bit of common sense.
It is not clear what Allison plans to do in Mexico, but the location serves as a recurring symbol throughout the film. To Eugene’s knowledge, his distant father moved to Mexico after leaving. His father’s absence from his life is an integral element in his character development. There were a few times in the film where Eugene shied away from the subject but, for the most part, he was particularly open about how the familial gap his father left behind affected him emotionally.
Perhaps, this explains why Eugene was so desperate to receive affection from Allison. Eugene makes a not so well-thought-out decision to follow Allison to Mexico where he is convinced he’ll reunite with his father while living happily ever after with her. But of course, things don’t always go as planned.
Initially, Allison constantly made it a point to reiterate her lack of romantic interest in Eugene despite his obvious infatuation with her, but as the plot progressed she began to see something in him that pulled her in more and more. Though the director does not clarify exactly what ignited her sudden change of heart, it is safe to assume that Eugene’s willingness to help Allison and his pure personality may have something to do with it.
Eugene’s love for Allison could be real, but it is clear that he still has a lot to learn in love and in life. And though some viewers may believe there was a genuine connection between Allison and Eugene, it is also safe to assume that she could have possibly been a master manipulator who was aware of her beauty and used it to get what she wanted. In this case, it was a gullible scapegoat, an effective escape plan and a ton of stolen money.
The visuals in Dreamland are one of the best parts of the movie. Though the premise of it may seem a bit cliché, it is still well worth viewing. It offers a unique and thought-provoking approach to each character and is the perfect cinematic blend of romance, action, drama, and suspense.