Dreamin’ Wild REVIEW – Of Wistful Daydreams

About a dream deferred and second chances.

Dreamin' Wild
Dreamin' Wild

My husband loves music as much as I love movies. When he was young, he taught himself how to play the bass and guitar, and was part of a band before he met me. But as the practicalities of life caught up with him, he decided to put music aside and pursue a line of work that would offer him a stable income. Sometimes, when I watch him listening to music, or strumming absentmindedly on his guitar, I think about the lives we left behind to build a home and life together.

Dreamin’ Wild is about that passionate sense of dreaming we all had when we were younger, to love something so much and be utterly convinced that this is where we need to be, but then we wake up and realise that the world may not feel the same.

Donnie (Casey Affleck) and Joe Emerson (Walton Goggins) recorded an album together when they were younger, and now, 30 years later, the world is beginning to appreciate the beauty of that record. But Donnie and Joe aren’t the young men they used to be anymore. Joe gave up on the world of music, choosing to focus on farm life instead, because he knew he could never be as talented as his brother. Donnie has spent years trying to make the music thing work, but to no avail.

So when they get a visit from Matt (Chris Messina), who tells them that their album has gained traction and popularity, they can’t believe it. The film flits back and forth between the past and present, a clear contrast marked between the joyful past and the somber present. Even though the boys (younger Donnie and Joe are played by Noah Jupe and Jack Dylan Grazer) had commitments on the family farm, their parents nourished their love for music. They bought them instruments, and build a space they could practice in. It is frankly so heartwarming to see such love and belief in a family unit, especially to see their father Don Sr. (Beau Bridges) actively encourage his sons to pursue their love for music, even when it comes at a cost to himself.

Despite the fact that everyone’s celebrating the popularity of the record, and the opportunities this might bring, Donnie feels unbearable stress and pressure. He wrote and sang those songs in a different time in his life, and performing them now just doesn’t make sense the way they used to. It is a great performance from Affleck, who’s able to convey so well the complex feelings Donnie is going through, and the tension it brings into all his relationships. It’s infinitely heartbreaking when you compare his present world weariness to the youthful glow he used to carry with him when he made music. The film does such a great job of fleshing out both the teen and adult experience of life. We get a glimpse into the beauty of first love, as well as the commitment of marriage and family.

The movie also has a great sense of location and space. The opening few minutes are just still shots of the family’s property, and is such an effective way of allowing viewers to feel the space. Even the visuals at a gas station look so pretty and ethereal.

Dreamin’ Wild is a thoughtful, moving film about the story of the Emerson family, and a biopic that marches to its own distinct, singular beat. A must-watch, especially if you enjoyed director Bill Pohlad’s previous movie Love & Mercy.

Review screener provided.

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Dreamin' Wild
Director Bill Pohlad proves that he's a deft hand at music biopics. Just like he did with Love & Mercy, he turns his lens and focuses on the people at the centre of the music, showing us their hopes as well as their blistering realities.