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I’ll See You in My Dreams – Review


Release Date: 15 May 2015 [USA]
Director: Brett Haley
Writer: Marc Basch - Brett Haley
Cast: Blythe Danner - Martin Starr - Sam Elliott - Rhea Perlman - Mary Kay Place - Aarti Mann



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Posted May 29, 2015 by

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I’ll See You in My Dreams Review:

I’ll See You in My Dreams, from writer-director Brett Haley, is very nearly an anti-drama. It feels at times as if Haley goes out of his way to avoid the moments of direct conflict in his story. And in that regard, it provides a welcome change of pace from the non-stop deluge of action or comedy or dramatic contrivance that characterizes so much modern film. And with Blythe Danner at her relaxed best, and a host of strong supporting players, it turns into a leisurely, somewhat sad, but ultimately charming movie.

Danner plays Carol Peterson, a southern California widow who has her AARP card but is not ready for the retirement community into which her friends have all drifted. Her life is simple, revolving around her dog Hazel, her games of bridge, and her Chardonnay. Haley’s opening sequence, which amounts to a montage of Carol’s daily routine, is a beautiful lesson in brevity and detail. We understand Carol almost immediately. She is independent, but she has an obvious hole that has grown inside her when she wasn’t looking, and now threatens to swallow up her remaining years.

Golf and gossip with her three friends, Sally, Rona, and Georgina, take up a good part of her day. Those friends, played by Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, and June Squibb, form a bit of a Golden Girls triad, but the comedy is far more grounded in reality than any sitcom. There is a sequence in which they get high and go grocery shopping which could obviously be played for broad humor. But like much of the rest of the film, there is a twinge of sadness in their hijinx. Since even one decent part for an actress of a certain age is a rarity in American film, it is nice to see these vets dig into something (though I admit, Squibb can be an acquired taste.)

The narrative of the film is driven by Carol’s relationship with two men. One is the much younger Lloyd, who is putting his degree in poetry to use by cleaning pools. The other is Bill, Carol’s contemporary and a genuine man’s man. Bill is played by Sam Elliott, the closest thing Hollywood has to a Marlboro Man cowboy, and he will awaken the sexual being in Carol. Their scenes provide the closest thing I’ll See You in My Dreams has to a developed plot.

But the more interesting element, indeed, the most interesting part of the movie, is Carol’s relationship with Lloyd. Martin Starr was an uber-geek when he played the 14-year old Bill in the television program Freaks and Geeks. Now all grown-up, Starr really shines as the geeky, gawky, yet very real Lloyd. There is the constant hint of sexual attraction between the two, but in the hands of Danner and Starr, that very real attraction is perfectly modulated. Though it probably would have ruined the uncontrived nature of the story to push that sexual attraction, it would have been nice to see a May-December romance where the woman got to be December for a change. Suffice to say, Lloyd and Carol help each other grow in ways that no quickie would ever allow.

Haley seems to be thumbing his nose at our expectations of current film drama. Major events happen offscreen. A glance goes a lot farther than a screaming match. Individual scenes do not necessarily resolve on a dramatic reversal. There are two young, apparently unattached characters of the opposite sex floating through the narrative, and in the hands of a lesser writer, they almost certainly would have ended up together, at least for a while. But Haley builds his world with the knowledge that most connections are missed, and that the capacity for great joy and great sorrow coexist in almost every decision we take. It is a mature sense of storytelling about mature characters.

Twenty-five years ago, Canadian filmmaker Cynthia Scott directed an offbeat semi-documentary about a group of elderly women called The Company of Strangers. Though Haley does not go as far as Scott in allowing for improvisation, I was reminded of the Canadian movie whenever Carol and her friends were together. I’ll See You in My Dreams is a modest film, a small film, a beautifully detailed film which offers its comedy without becoming silly, and confronts the sorrows of aging without becoming morose. It gives Blythe Danner a wonderful role to play. And it feels very real. That’s saying something, for 2015, or any year.


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Jonathan Eig
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