I’ll See You in My Dreams
When the majority of it is behind you, what does life really mean? That’s the question co-writer and director Brett Haley poses in this charming comedy-drama. With Hollywood generally consigning any female over the age of 50 to the scrapheap (unless you happen to be Meryl Streep), I’ll See You in My Dreams offers a star turn for the luminous Blythe Danner (73) in a rare leading role.
Danner gives a subtle but unsentimental and deeply felt performance as Carol, a woman trying to navigate the approaching twilight years and make sense of her life. A retired, seventy-something widow, she’s living out the rest of her days alone in sun-dappled California,with the help of a generous insurance policy left behind by her husband’s unexpected death. Punctuated by rounds of golf and cards and gossip with her girlfriends, and lubricated with endless glasses of chardonnay, it’s a pleasant but unremarkable existence. It’s only when her beloved dog, Hazel, dies that Carol’s predictable routine is disrupted and she starts questioning her life more closely.
The ambiguous connection that Carol forges with her dejected younger pool-guy, Lloyd (nicely played by a deadpan Martin Starr) is perhaps the most interesting part of the film, and their scenes together really lift it. Veteran actresses June Squibb, Rhea Perlman and Mary Kay Place are also amusing as Carol’s friends, although their characters are a little too broadly sketched and veer into cliché. Malin Akerman as her daughter, however, doesn’t seem the right choice of casting: it feels as though she’s wandered into the wrong studio on the way to film a rom-com.
One of the film’s weaknesses is the near non-existence of any kind of visual storytelling – apart from one striking and emotive shot towards the end featuring a vase of flowers. Haley does, however, employ music cleverly throughout, in order to move the narrative on and convey his characters’ feelings. When Lloyd takes Carol to a karaoke bar, in an attempt to relight the fire she once felt on stage as part of a hip band in New York’s East Village, viewers are treated to an unexpectedly gorgeous rendition of Cry Me a River. And in a lovely scene where Lloyd serenades Carol with a song he’s written, there’s finally a chink in his gloomy armour. In contrast, the deliberate lack of a soundtrack at the beginning of the film serves to highlight Carol’s solitariness in her big house.
It might not always strike the right notes, but I’ll See You in My Dreams is the perfect showcase for its lead actress’s talents.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is released nationwide on 13th February and available on digital platforms from 29th February 2016.
Watch the trailer for I’ll See You in My Dreams here: