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Review: ‘Mean Dreams’ Presents Lovers on the Lam With Quiet Skill

Nathan Morlando’s “Mean Dreams” may use a time-honored premise — young lovers on the lam (see: “Badlands”) — but it does so with such quiet, gently appealing assurance that it makes the template seem fresh again. Jonas (Josh Wiggins, who made an effective screen debut in “Hellion” in 2014) is a 15-year-old high school dropout working on his parents’ struggling farm when he meets Casey (the Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse, from “The Book Thief”), who with her father has just moved in down the road.

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Trailer: ‘Mean Dreams’

A preview of the film.


By VERTICAL ENTERTAINMENT on Publish Date March 16, 2017.


Photo by Vertical Entertainment.

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Casey’s dad, Wayne, an abusive alcoholic and corrupt sheriff (a bristling Bill Paxton, in one of his final film roles), has ties to drug runners. When Jonas overhears Wayne killing some of his criminal acquaintances, he plots an escape for Casey from her domestic hell. He steals a bag of drug money from Wayne, and soon the young couple, with dreams of finding freedom by the ocean, are hounded by the sheriff and his police accomplice (Colm Feore).

Mr. Morlando — working with his skilled cinematographer, Steve Cosens, from a tight script by Kevin Coughlin and Ryan Grassby — capitalizes on rural Canadian locations in autumn and the chemistry of his young, talented stars. As the bravura composition of the group-murder sequence illustrates, Mr. Morlando knows how to stage a scene with tasteful understatement. Without stooping to titillation, he underscores the bond between Jonas and Casey, whose fate, though far from secure, leaves the viewer…

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