Director: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte | Screenplay: Nicholas Black| Cast: Finn Cole (Eugene Evans), Margot Robbie (Allison Wells), Travis Fimmel (George Evans), ea | Time to play: 98 minutes | Year: 2019
Like Bonnie without Clyde, a wounded bank robber seeks Dreamland a refuge. His unlikely new partner becomes a young farmer who dreams of a happier life. An atypical love story set against the backdrop of the historic Dust Bowl, which is unfortunately told rather incompletely.
When Eugene stumbles across the runaway Allison in the barn of her family’s ranch in Texas, he is quickly captivated by her bravery and exotic desire to escape. She offers him double her hefty reward on her head if he can help her with a one-way ticket to Mexico. Eugene realizes all too well that there is no going back once he decides not to report her. However, he challenges the threatening authority of his stepfather, who plays the local part of him as a deputy sheriff.
A lengthy voiceover at the beginning of the film reveals that Eugene’s awe-inspiring fascination with Margot Robbie’s looks isn’t the only thing driving him. The story is introduced by his much younger half-sister, Phoebe, who explains over twenty years of Eugene’s (pre)history. As a result, even before Eugene and Allison’s first meeting, we know that Eugene’s father left the family when the boy was five years old, heading in the same direction that Allison wants to follow further. Whether he is dead now is not certain.
It’s a shame that the somewhat relaxed voiceover already reduces Eugene’s psychology to general childhood trauma. The loss of his father and the rigid, poisonous masculinity of his stepfather (played by an aloof Travis Fimmel, somewhat reminiscent of Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life ) turn out to have led to a primitive fear of abandonment, which inevitably manifests itself as Eugene continues to cling to his flying companion against his better judgment.
Because with the price on her head, Allison will never be able to help this unlikely couple with their dream exit. Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte knows this too, playing on the inaccessibility of the film’s title (“dreamland”) and the metaphorical power of the fiery Dust Bowl (which, as it were, swallows up the American dream). However, the film also partly perpetuates the myths it dismantles.
When Phoebe finds out there’s more going on in the barn than Eugene wants to tell her, she doesn’t run like a rabbit to her stern father. Part of that fascination with the bandit rubs off on the young woman. She wants to understand her half-brother, even if he leaves her and, in a sense, also becomes a bandit.
Because we’re looking at the story through Phoebe’s eyes. Dreamland ultimately confusingly halfway between tragedy and shameless romanticism. While we all know what happened to Bonnie, Clyde, Billy the Kid, and everyone else, they are still heroes somewhere in our collective imagination.
Dreamland can be seen in Netflix.