|Dream with the
MPAA rating (or equivalent): Rlanguage, slight nudity
The triumphal hymn of Orthodox Pascha says repeatedly, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life." Though certainly not in the New Testament sense, "trampling down death by death" could be called the theme of both films I'm reviewing this week: For Roseanna, and Dream with the Fishes. Both "trample" death by looking it straight in the eye and saying "no! You may win in the end, but until the end you won't own me."
Though much different films overall, both share a religious sensitivity that's unusual enough to be refreshing. For Roseanna unapologetically professes a robust Catholicism that was more familiar in the days of Frank Capra; Dream with the Fishes has the most memorable young-man-finding-God character since Pulp Fiction. Though I'm giving both seven points on my 10 point scale and I've vowed not to start using fractions with my points, "Fishes" rates a very high seven, "Roseanna" very low. Your mileage may vary, of course (I rather suspect that the majority of film-goers, especially those of my generation, would take the opposite view on this).
It's no coincidence that Dream with the Fishes reminded me of Frank Capra. Where Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey visited Martinelli's bar on his way to jump off the local bridge, "Fishes'" central character Terry, a stuffed shirt too shy to have a life of his own, visits the local liquor store and pays $50 for a lastone wonders if it isn't also his firstbottle of booze. Both characters are met as they stand on the rail of their respective bridges by highly unlikely angels looking to save them, though that's not at all apparent to George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life or to either Terry or the audience in "Fishes."
One of the delights of this wonderful first movie by director Finn Taylor is that you're never sure about the supporting-actor character, Nick, until almost the end, and some viewersone thinks of Gene Siskel who referred to him repeatedly as "a 'druggie'" which misses the point not only of the character but the moviemay never get it. That's too bad, for Nick is one of the most complicated and interesting characters, performed stunningly by Brad Hunt who'd never caught my attention before, that I've met onscreen in a long time. I'd love to explain this in greater detail, but hesitate out of fear of ruining the plot for those who like minimal information going in.
After you've seen it, consider these questions: Does he offer Terry an overdose of phony sleeping pills to get the watch he wants, or to save Terry's life? What's the significance of his comparison of the high school "flame" whom he visits briefly in the film and his present love? Is his (one) use of hard drugs in the film, contra Siskel's opinion, attempted self-medication, an object lesson for Terry, some of each, or something else? Did he ever intend to kill Terry as promised?
I wasn't sure I really liked this movie until the climax; then I wanted to cheer. This is a film which, even more than Pulp Fiction (which it resembles only slightly as alluded to above; not at all in violence quotient) and Chasing Amy (which it resembles in the triangle bonding two men and a woman), I would like to see at least a couple more times. I'm sure the payoff in insights and understanding would be there. This is really one worth getting into.
Photo © by the film's distributor
© 1997, Jon Kennedy