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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 10.27.16] Canada thriller crime

A couple of years ago director Nathan Morlando arrived on the scene with Edwin Boyd (review), a passion project which told the true story of the titular character, a former bus driver who turned to robbing banks to support his family. For his follow-up, Morlando has stayed within the thriller genre but this time with a story which focuses on two teens that get themselves into serious trouble with some very bad people.

Mean Dreams stars relative newcomer Josh Wiggins as Jonas, a teen living in rural Canada who has left school to work the farm and help the family stay afloat while Sophie Nélisse is Casey, the pretty young daughter of the new town deputy (played by the great Bill Paxton) who happens to move into the property next to Jonas' farm.

The pair instantly form a bond and as they get to know each other, it becomes clear that Casey's home life isn't good. Her father Wayne drinks too much and tends to get violent when he drinks, taking it out on whoever is around, namely his teenage daughter. Angry and determined to "save" her, Jonas hatches a plan to run away with Casey and when the opportunity presents itself, he steals a bag of money from Casey's father in order to support his getaway plan.

Obviously this is a bad move. Not only is Wayne now looking for the runaway teens, he has the Chief (Colm Feore) – also his business partner – to help him in the pursuit not to mention the full power of the law. The kids are really in a no-win situation but they're kids and in their naiveté, they try to make their way across the country. It does not go well.

Mean Dreams is a fairly typical crime thriller complete with murder, stolen money, crooked cops and innocent central characters trying to make a better life for themselves. The fact that in this case those characters are kids experiencing first love adds a nice veneer of drama to the whole thing but in the end, it's still pretty cookie cutter stuff.

That all said, Mean Dreams is aptly made featuring beautiful cinematography from Steve Cosens and a great score from Son Lux not to mention great performances from Feore and Paxton who clearly enjoy chewing the scenery. The one weak link is Wiggins who is pretty flat through most of the film, something which is even more obvious by the fact that everyone else is acting circles around him. He's young and inexperienced and that inexperience is often apparent.

Even with a couple of hiccups and predictable plotting, Mean Dreams is fun to watch and I found myself really rooting for Casey and Jonas to get away despite the fact that the deck is badly stacked against them.

This is a great step up for Morlando and I look forward to seeing his next project.

Mean Dreams is currently playing in limited release across Canada.

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