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Dream Scenario (Dog Friendly Screening) (15)

Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Nicolas Cage, Lily Bird, Jessica Clement
Genre: Comedy
Author(s): Kristoffer Borgli
Director: Kristoffer Borgli
Release Date: 10/11/2023
Running Time: 101mins
Country: US
Year: 2023

College lecturer Paul Matthews is perplexed when total strangers reveal that he has infiltrated dreams as a silent bystander to their strange imaginings. As the phenomena sweeps across America, Paul embraces his newfound celebrity to chase a book deal but a heightened public profile comes with unfortunate consequences for him and his loved ones.


LondonNet Film Review

Dream Scenario (15) Film Review from LondonNet

Thanks to the proliferation of reality TV and social media, the fame monster has never been more prevalent, poised to sink fangs into attention-seeking wannabes and unsuspecting members of the public who are willing to trade privacy for adoration and cash. The monster rampages to an absurdist extreme in Dream Scenario, a bleak and twisted comedy horror centred on an unremarkable college professor, who infiltrates strangers’ night-time imaginings as a passive onlooker to devastating earthquakes, rampaging alligators and the sudden loss of gravity on Earth…

Norwegian writer-director Kristoffer Borgli builds on the success of his award-winning previous feature, Sick Of Myself, to mine mordant humour and menace from a fantastical set-up. He elicits a tightly coiled and entertaining lead performance from Nicolas Cage as the educator in need of harsh life lessons about being careful what you wish for. Compared with recent attention-grabbing Cage performances, the Oscar winner demonstrates restraint but the threat of a trademark manic outburst is omnipresent and his character’s rise and self-induced fall inspire a full spectrum of emotional responses from pity and derision to empathy and jaw-dropping bewilderment. It’s a meaty, full-blooded central role that flirts with the same madness as Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid (Aster is credited as a producer here).

Mild-mannered college professor Paul Matthews (Cage) yearns to be recognised for his work on evolutionary biology but fate conspires to keep him in the shadows. His children Hannah (Jessica Clement) and Sophie (Lily Bird) tolerate him, students try not to fall asleep in his lectures on animal camouflage and wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson) quietly stands by his side. Out of the blue, strangers experience dreams of the same “remarkable nobody”: Paul.

Students at college report glimpsing their professor in dreams and Paul feeds excitedly on his newfound celebrity, hopeful that he might secure a coveted book deal after years of rejection thanks to his association with a trendy marketing company run by Trent (Michael Cera) and Mary (Kate Berlant). Brett (Tim Meadows), dean of Paul’s college, urges caution and a security expert warns of the gathering storm: “Fame can come with some less desirable side-effects.” Soon after, Paul’s presence in dreams becomes increasingly sinister as the phenomenon sweeps across America and the shy family man actively shuns the publicity he once coveted.

Dream Scenario is a barbed satire on the fickleness and fragility of fame in an era when relevance and desirability are determined by hashtags, follows and shares. Borgli embraces horror tropes in the film’s darker second half when Paul tries to shake off his undeserved new status as a boogeyman but only makes matters worse with foolish actions. The script avoids neat explanations and resolutions, preferring to leave characters in freefall because in dreams and nightmares, you usually wake up just before impact.

– Jo Planter


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