As children, we imagine becoming great things and never think it will be any different. Very few of us actually reach our goals, however, and instead, the harsh reality of life kicks us in the balls over and over again until humility finally sets in, and we accept the banality of our adult lives. Sometimes we have friends who dream with us, encouraging our aspirations but often falling into the same rut unless they move on and achieve their own greatness. If the situation is really desperate, these friends can turn possessive and jealous of the few good things you have in your life and do everything in their power to drag you down with them because, after all, misery loves company. UK-based American writer/director Nicole Albarelli explores this destructive dynamic in To Dream.
“…the youths ‘acquire’ and sell books…only to spend their earnings on pubs and weed.”
Luke (Edward Hayter) and Tommy (Freddie Thorp) come from rough working class London council estates, but grew up believing they would escape to America one day. Now that they’re older, the stark reality of their lives is setting in. Luke’s father Charlie (Frank Jakeman) sees his son following in his own footsteps and becomes abusive from the frustration while Tommy’s mother just stares at the telly, leaving him to fend for himself. To make ends meet, the youths “acquire” and sell books to a shady book dealer (Jon Campling) only to spend their earnings on pubs and weed. Luke has a girlfriend (Diana Vickers) who just wants to go out and have a good time but Tommy prefers the company of a dangerous drug dealer (Adam Deacon) who does what it takes to protect his enterprise. Eventually, these influences lead the boys to their dire destiny.
It’s a simple premise, but an effective one told bluntly through beautiful photography. Albarelli captures the grey destitution of working class England with integrity, allowing the drab colors to blend into something viscerally appealing, though brief blissful moments turn serene through peaceful soft lighting. Characters unfold through their words and body language, revealing all the slight elements that make them tick. We get to know them as real people with human motivations, shades of ourselves that we once were or wish to ignore because it would be too painful. There are also some surprising twists that make the story more than just another drama about struggling poor kids.
“…a simple premise…told bluntly through beautiful photography.”
The performances shine as well. Both Hayter and Thorp brilliantly command their roles through arrogance and vulnerability, channeling the horrifying uncertainty of becoming a young adult. Jakeman deserves an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as a broken father struggling to raise his directionless son. Deacon delivers a chilling performance in his portrayal of a psychotic drug dealer, and Vickers perfectly balances the frivolity of being a young party girl with the innocence of being thrown in the middle of Luke and Tommy’s tumultuous relationship.
William Burroughs wrote about psychic vampires, people who feed off of your energy only to leave you drained and devoid of anything after they’ve gone. You may not realize it, but that may be your best friend desperately grabbing your ankles as they sink into the quicksand. As long as they hold on, you can’t move, but as soon as you shake them off, those dreams and aspirations can become reality. It only takes one step to move forward.
To Dream (2018) Directed by Nicole Albarelli. Written by Nicole Albarelli. Starring Edward Hayter, Freddie Thorp, Frank Jakeman, Diana Vickers, Adam Deacon, Kirsty Dillon, Angela Peters and Jon Campling.
9 out of 10 stars