Monday, June 06, 2016

DWF ’16: Beautiful Dreamer (short)

Science fiction often uses relativity to tragically separate people, as in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and L. Ron Hubbard’s To the Stars (the inspiration for the Chick Corea concept album). However, a terminally ill mother intends to use relativity to bring her back into her daughter life at key junctures. At least that is the idea. The reality will inevitably be much more complicated in David Gaddie’s short film Beautiful Dreamer (trailer here), which screened at the 2016 Dances with Films.

Amy’s mother is not alone. There are many incurable volunteers who have enlisted in her light-speed-traveling research program. She has only two years left to live, but she looks eternally youthful during her irregular visits home. In contrast, Amy and her father have lived and aged years at a time, without her. She will get to see Amy grow up and become a mother herself, but her daughter often resents her absence. Indeed, it is hard to give a simple yes or no answer to the question: was it worth it?

Gaddie and Steven Kelleher’s adaption of science fiction novelist and translator Ken Liu’s short story “Memories of My Mother” wrestles with some big ideas while requiring hardly any special effect, just careful casting. (Oddly enough, Gaddie throws in some unnecessary effects, which are probably a mistake.) It is really about the parental-child bond enduring under extreme challenges.

Lila Taylor, Caroline Bednar, Natalie Smith, and Lynn Cohen form the impressive relay team of Amys, smoothly passing the baton down the line. Jo Armeniox portrays the mother wrestling with the consequences of her decisions with quiet, understated power. Theis Weckesser also deserves credit for his acutely sensitive portrayal of Amy’s father.

This is one of the rare futuristic short films that is truly an actor’s showcase. Most of its speculativeness are probably mostly afterthoughts, but it is still striking the extent to which drones have apparently been integrated into this near-future world. Regardless, the mother-daughter separations and reunions are always quite moving. Recommended for fans of character-driven science fiction, Beautiful Dreamer next screens in July at the 2016 Big River Film Festival in Savanah, following its West Coast premiere at this year’s Dances with Films in Hollywood, CA.