Tuesday, 28 October 2008

No.99 : What Dreams May Come

What Dreams May Come at the IMDb

Robin Williams stars in this ambitious and somewhat sentimental drama about a man searching the realms of heaven and hell for his lost wife.

The film opens with Williams, laughably youthed up with a floppy wig, boating on Lake Geneva. He bumps paddles and later uglies with the lovely Annabella Sciorra, and the pair marry before the opening credits have finished. They soon produce two boys but their idyllic life is shattered when the two lads die in an off screen car accident. Williams devotes himself to his medical work but is himself killed by a crashing car five years later.

His spirit is at first lost, visiting his family and own funeral, but he is soon guided to the afterlife by Cuba Gooding Jnr who is the youthful form of an aged doctor who had mentored Williams in his formative years. At first Heaven is great and he is reunited with his sons and family dog in a realised painting done by his wife. Things sour however when he learns that his grief stricken wife has killed herself and has been cast into Hell.

Not taking this lying down Williams seeks out Max Von Sydow who knows the way to Hell and offers to pitch in. The task is seemingly pointless however as memories are wiped in Hell and unless he can convince her to leave they both must live in the devilish realm for all eternity.

This was a really interesting film chock full of great ideas and stunning visuals and only a sentimentality overload prevented it from attaining ‘great’ status. The best part of the film is easily the visions of Heaven and Hell. It is quickly established that heaven is whatever you want it to be and transport is simply a matter of closing your eyes. With these two rules locked down the director has free rein to create lavish and stunning worlds, a task he completes with some relish. Williams initial Heaven , a living painting, was captured to great effect with puddles of paint lying around and painted houses becoming fully interactive three dimensional places.

His later journeys had a more ’classic’ Heaven vibe with people flying around and not a lump of dog shit to be seen. The best parts were however reserved for Hell with a cracking sea of white bodies dragging down their ship followed by a field of heads as far as you could see all begging for assistance and denying the crimes that had cast them there.

The plot was pretty straight forward although there were more changing faces than the first ‘Mission Impossible’ film to keep you guessing. Heaven allows you to take whatever form you wish and the message of ‘it’s what underneath that counts’ is certainly hammered home as our preconceptions are dashed as soon as they’re formed, almost every time.

The performances weren’t great with the always sentimental and blubbery Williams on standard form as was Von Sydow who was still doing his Chief Judge Fargo from ‘Judge Dredd’. Some of the love dripping dialogue was a bit hard to take with the love lasting for all eternity message the main theme for the film. At nearly two hours it is a big ask of the audience to put up with the sobbing Williams for that long, but the cracking sets and effects more than compensate.

I imagine this film with its idealised visions of the afterlife will offer a lot of comfort to the bereaved and it did well to stay away from a religious tone. It didn’t give me the shivers in the way a film like ‘Ghost’ did at the end but, although predictable, the happy ending was no less welcome for that.

Best Bit : Good Crop of Heads This Year

‘W’ Score : 15/23

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