Review: Mean Dreams
By John Corrado
★★★½ (out of 4)
Jonas Ford (Josh Wiggins) lives on a struggling rural farm property, with a severely depressed mother (Vickie Papavs) and a father (Joe Cobden) who keeps him out of school and expects him to work in the fields.
When Casey Caraway (Sophie Nélisse) moves into a nearby farmhouse with her police officer father Wayne (Bill Paxton), the two teens start to form a close relationship with each other. But there is trouble afoot, and when Jonas witnesses Casey being abused by her father, a series of events is set in motion that puts them on the run with a bag of stolen cash, struggling to escape their troubled lives.
Following his promising and ambitious debut feature Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster in 2011, director Nathan Morlando continues to show a sure hand behind the camera with his gripping second feature Mean Dreams. Seamlessly balancing elements of both character drama and crime thriller, the film envelopes us in a moody atmosphere that keeps tightening the screw in terms of tension, with several brilliantly handled sequences that ratchet up genuine suspense.
Shot in Northern Ontario, Mean Dreams is beautifully photographed by Steve Cosens, with the wheat fields and wooded landscapes appearing both inviting and dangerous. Josh Wiggins displays an intensity beyond his years and does an excellent job of carrying the film, and Sophie Nelisse affectingly portrays a character who is forced to make mature decisions that threaten to change her entire life, as the film reaches its dark but almost inevitable conclusion.
Anchored by a pair of engaging performances from these two young leads, and menacing supporting work by Bill Paxton who provides a chilling adversary to them, Mean Dreams is a gripping coming of age thriller, wrought with near-constant suspense flowing through its veins.
Mean Dreams is now playing in limited release at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas in Toronto, and at other locations across Canada.