Film review: ‘DREAM SCENARIO’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Writer/director Kristoffer Borgli’s strange psychological drama, Dream Scenario joins Beau Is Afraid, Poor Things, Babylon and various others in the impressive roster of inventively odd recent films.

In one of his career best performances, Nicolas Cage stars as evolutionary biology professor Paul Mathews, a seemingly ordinary chap who becomes the centre of a bizarre social phenomena.  People begin reporting that he has appeared in their dreams, usually as a passive by-stander while something terrifying happens to them. As more people report Paul’s unusual dream cameos, he begins to attract media attention and quickly becomes a viral sensation. Suddenly, people who had ignored him are keen for his attention and branding companies are eager to pair him with products.  When the dreams turn violent and start to feature Paul as a crazed, murderous fiend, however, the fickle public turn on him in real life and he rapidly becomes an outcast.

In a fairly obvious but still compelling fashion, the film explores the opportunities of the internet and social media but also their invasiveness and destructiveness in forging dubious beliefs about others’ identities, commodifying those identities for profit and in fuelling the toxic mob mentality.  Also, without examining them in great detail, the film references ideas such as Jung’s notion of collective unconscious, Freud’s theory of dreams as wish fulfilment and the mind/body philosophy of Cartesian dualism.

Set in comfortable suburbia but with a sense of something mysterious and creepy hovering over the quiet streets, Dream Scenario at times recalls a film like Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Also, in its depiction of a fracturing reality, it has touches of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind and Cage’s earlier works like Adaptation.

Cage is perfectly suited to this role, the oddball scenario providing a credible context for his famously eccentric behavioural tics.  Julianne Nicholson as Paul’s wife, Tim Meadows as Brett, the College Dean and Lily Bird and Jessica Clement as Paul’s daughters also contribute strong performances.

While it feels as if Dream Scenario was more a collection of intriguing ideas than a fully formed story, Borgli and the cast deliver these ideas in fascinating, often amusing and at times disturbing fashion.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Drama/ Fantasy/Science Fiction.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Kristoffer Borgli.

Release date: 1st Jan 2024.

Running time: 101 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.


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