Lloyd Eyre-Morgan’s adaptation of his play, Dream On, spins the now familiar coming of age tale about young (gay) love. Set primarily on a camping site in the 1980s, two boys from working-class backgrounds gradually discover their feelings for each other and embark on a relationship, which from the start is troubled by parental and social factors.
Sound eerily reminiscent of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing (Macdonald, 1996)? Don’t worry, Harvey’s classic remains untouched, and being compared to it is perhaps the only way Dream On will achieve much notoriety, as, sadly, this film fails on all the levels that made Beautiful Thing a success.
Apparently aiming for pathos, this film inadvertently lands on bathos, and for a myriad of reasons; first and foremost, the quality of writing is extraordinarily lacking to be able to pack the sort of emotional punch it aims for. Instead the narrative trudges laboriously from A to B with no artistic imperative to elevate it to the sphere of noteworthy storytelling. En route from A to B it seems to hit every working class/kitchen sink cliché in the book, and does nothing to rejuvenate the coming of age genre; rather it inhibits it due to such profoundly unimaginative treatment. Dream On lacks any kind of personality primarily because all the elements it’s comprised of have been borrowed from elsewhere. It is purely imitative: We have literally seen it all before. Whilst this is common practice, particularly at the moment where it is en vogue to repackage old concepts for a new audience, usually it’s with the intention of enhancing the raw concepts so as to make them ‘relevant’ to contemporary sensibilities. Eyre-Morgan enhances nothing here; instead he regurgitates stale ideas held together with sub-par material, resulting in what feels like a college theatre production.
Unfortunately the quality of acting does not aid the film; that too is distinctly amateurish. Whilst I can’t deny the cast give it their all, and while it may well be the result of an uninspired script and weak direction, they inject little personality in to the roles, but are more like conduits in to every nightmarish two-dimensional character from every kitchen sink drama ever written. Every character becomes extraordinarily irritating very early on and you know that it does not bode well for the remainder of the film.
What is striking however is that Dream On was a moderately successful stage play in the North West of England, with the same cast and director, and I can’t account for how a play that garnered a generally positive audience reaction could result in such a poorly executed film. I can only assume that the elements which made it a success on stage have somehow been lost in its translation to screen, as if often the case. That, however, does not account for how misjudged the directorial choices seem to be.
That said, Dream On is the first film production from Eyre-Morgan’s Lemfilms, and with his follow-up Celluloid due to be released next year, we can hope that he has refined his technique and matured as a filmmaker. Only time will tell.
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