Director: Jason Matzner
Coming-of-age during the summer after high school graduation has long been widely documented cinematically in a number of ways—as a time for daring and parties, of course, but also as a period of panic and uncertainty, existential dilemmas and worries about leaving the nest. Such is the case for Audrey (Agnes Bruckner), an aspiring poet living in a nearly desolate trailer community in the center of New Mexico. Named Dreamland, the community attracts its fair share of hippies, dreamers and those left with nothing but futile ambitions or recollections of past happiness such as Audrey’s father (the excellent John Corbett) who spends most of his time in a drunken haze, terrified to step only a few yards away from home to go to the store and preoccupied with the remembrance of his beloved long-deceased wife. Audrey’s best friend Calista is the quintessential dreamer-- a beautiful golden-haired girl with dreams of becoming Miss America, Calista at first seems like a flighty teenager until audiences realize that she must boldly face each day while quietly overwhelmed with the horrors of an MS diagnosis. When a young basketball hopeful (Justin Long) moves into the community, the two girls find themselves both attracted to the new boy but instead of simply concerning the film with a clichéd love triangle, Dreamland is mostly about Audrey’s evolution from girl to woman as she must decide whether or not to accept numerous college acceptance offers or stay at home with those she loves. While not as good as the similarly themed Rich in Love, Matzner’s debut film is filled with moments of genuine heart and characters who are original enough that they would’ve fit right in with those in the setting of Dreamland actor John Corbett’s most famous cult-hit television series, Northern Exposure. An official selection of the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festival, the film’s lush cinematography is one of the only ones in recent memory that accurately depicts the varied colors and vibrancy of the southwestern desert as something alive and tangible (instead of simply gloomy, beige and overwhelmingly claustrophobic) and natives of this particular American region will definitely appreciate the authenticity.