Any film that opens with a title card that informs you how prevalent slave labor is worldwide will be intense. Writer-director Mohit Ramchandani ‘s Dreamer is precisely that: an intense drama concerning events that unfold in a Los Angeles-based sweatshop. The movie centers on Jesus (Ari Lopez), a young boy given to flights of fancy where he imagines himself a professional footballer. Sadly for Jesus, now that his mom is dead, his relatives sell him to an American bottom-feeder named Rodrigo (Francisco Denis). Rodrigo is a mule for an LA sweatshop, and Jesus is his latest acquisition for the bodies who will tirelessly put out clothing for various boutiques around town.
Jesus is determined not to stay. He desperately wants a chance to prove he can play football (soccer). We, the audience, watch the multiple attempts of our hero to flee the sweatshop. The punishments meted out for failing to achieve quotas or not working efficiently enough are as brutal as you might imagine. After one particularly terrible flogging, Elena (Renata Vaca) offers Jesus some cooling cream. A friendship between the two blossoms until the day Elena is redeemed from the sweatshop. This is all the impetus Jesus requires. After that, he redoubles his efforts to find freedom.
Meanwhile, Officer Stevens (Jason Patric) has pulled Rodrigo over for driving through a traffic stop. Convinced the house on S. Harvard St. is bad, Stevens had his partner scout the place for any persons of interest. He’s determined to figure out who this Rodrigo person is and what sort of crime is unfolding.
“…his mom is dead, his relatives sell him to an American bottom-feeder named Rodrigo. Rodrigo is a mule for an LA sweatshop…”
It’s the combination of these two storylines that make Dreamer take off. The actions that unfold suggest this is meant to serve as a prayer to the universe that all people who traffic in human bondage will face consequences for their most horrifying business. I tip my hat to the production team. It’s about time someone considered why it is that clothes are so very cheap in department stores and mall boutiques these days.
The drama is well-paced and shows great promise in the suspense department. There are many taut and tense scenes that act almost like jump scares. I found myself screaming, “Run!” on several occasions. Ramchandani has written and directed a strong film debut, and I’m interested in what the filmmaker plans next. Matt Diezel has edited this movie most effectively. The cuts are subtle and propel the narrative along at a merry pace. The moment where Jesus’ eye almost but not quite comes in contact with a nail is so intense, all from the editing.
Dreamer ultimately tells a story occurring in the background of everyday life. We never ask ourselves how the cheap clothes and supplies we rely on are manufactured. Sure, many such items are fashioned in automated robot factories. However, even more are created by the work of slave laborers. It’s just out of sight, so we don’t think about it. Ramchandani wants you to take two hours and do nothing but reflect on this problem. Seek out this picture if you enjoy strong character-driven dramas concerning human depravity.
"…an intense drama..."