Dances With Films 2016: ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ - Film Review

What would you do if you found out you were dying? Would you extend your life by any means possible? Or would you make the most of the time you had left? That’s just one of the issues raised by the short film Beautiful Dreamer which had its west coast premiere recently at Dances With Films.

A mother (Jo Armeniox) finds out that she has only two years left to live. Under most circumstances, that would mean never getting to see her three-year-old daughter Amy grow up. Fortunately, however, she lives in the future and has found a way to cheat. She volunteers for a series of space missions that involve traveling near the speed of light. Each time she returns, Amy will be a few years older, allowing the mother to see more of her child’s life than her disease would ordinarily permit. The catch, though, is that she doesn’t really get to experience of it. All she gets are snapshots of a life in progress.

The first time she comes home, Amy is about 10 (played by Caroline Bednar). She’s beyond excited to see her mother and has been preparing for it for 7 years, documenting every bit of her life in pictures and keepsakes, so her mother can see. Her mother, meanwhile, takes Amy to do all the fun things she can think of for a day or so, before quietly leaving again to go back into space.

The next time she shows up, Amy (now played by Natalie Smith) is a sullen teenager. She’s got her own life going on and resents her mother just barging into it unannounced and expecting to play family for another few days.

And so it goes. Each time, Amy is a few years older and at a different stage at her life. Amy’s resentment of her mother’s absence eventually becomes acceptance, and they develop a rather unconventional mother-daughter relationship—as the age gap between them slowly narrows.

Was Amy’s mother’s decision a good one? Was it worth it to see these snapshots from across her daughter’s life, or should she have stayed and tried to do more with the couple of years she had left? The film doesn’t really render an opinion. There are both pros and cons of the decision, and it shows them both, leaving the ultimate decision up to the viewer.

This is a beautiful, fascinating, and well-made film. Armeniox is perfect as the mother, who’s loving and well-meaning but also kind of clueless sometimes. Smith is great as Amy and portrays her at several different stages of her life. The two have a good chemistry together. The future aesthetic of their surroundings is a lot of fun as well, evolving and advancing as the movie progresses, without being too intrusive on the central plot.

The film’s runtime is just under half an hour, allowing it an opportunity to delve into its subject matter a bit more deeply than some of the other shorts at Dances With Films. Director David Gaddie gives us a lot to think about in that time, and the film is sure to spark some deep, philosophical discussions about the ramifications of everything that goes on. Even if you don’t analyze the implications, though, this is a fun, worthwhile, and rather heartwarming movie. If you’re a fan of quiet, off-beat sci-fi, you’ll definitely want to check out Beautiful Dreamer.

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