Dreamland (MA) - 97 minutes
Dreamland is a story of heartache and heartbreak set in the mid 1930s (during the Great Depression), primarily in a small Texas town.
It concerns a female bank robber, Allison Wells (Margot Robbie), with a $10,000 bounty on her head and a 17-year-old lad, Eugene Evans (Finn Cole), who discovers her, shelters her and falls in love with her.
The tale of woe unfolds through the narration of Eugene’s half-sister Phoebe (voiced as an adult by Lola Kirke).
Eugene’s biological father was a drinker with psychological problems who left his wife and him when he was only five.
His sudden exit scarred Eugene.
His mother remarried a lawman in George (Travis Fimmel) and the pair went on to have Phoebe (played as a girl by Darby Camp).
The climate in their part of America is harsh and unrelenting, with massive sandstorms a regular occurrence.
One day the sheriff (Joe Berryman) announces there is a large reward for the apprehension of outlaw Wells, who has conducted a series of bank robberies, one of which resulted in the shooting death of a young girl.
Attracted by the big bounty, Eugene and his best friend Joe Garza (Stephen Dinh) search the area for her, but find no trace.
Instead, Eugene later chances upon her – gun in hand and bleeding badly from a wound to her leg – in the family’s barn.
Despite his initial apprehension, Eugene patches her up and allows her to heal over the next few days.
But the heat is building and it is just a matter of time before Wells is discovered, so with the lure of $20,000 (that she doesn’t yet have) she implores him to steal a car so she can high-tail it to Mexico.
He has a better idea.
The narration and atmospherics paint a grim picture and indicate this can’t end well.
I appreciated the story and its structure by Nicolaas Zwart, who makes his feature writing debut.
Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (As You Are) handled the material well, giving it a grounded but underlying lyrical quality.
The leads play their parts with distinction.
Cole shows naïveté and vulnerability, making it clear Eugene is the male equivalent of an ingénue, whose head is easily turned.
Robbie brings resilience and strength to her role as the bank robber who develops a soft spot for Eugene.
Fimmel has a no-nonsense approach to his representation of Eugene’s stepfather.
There’s a curiosity and resilience about Camp as Phoebe.
The cinematography by Lyle Vincent (Bad Education) is a feature. It gives us a feeling that in a tug of war with the elements, there can be but one winner.
Dreamland is an accomplished small audience film.
Rated MA, it scores a 7 out of 10.