There is nothing quite like an authentic indie comedy. A film that strives to do nothing than just tell a small, intricate story, with no cliches or big-budget effects. With independent films becoming so popular today (or perhaps with the billion dollar budgets of blockbusters, nearly everything else is an independent film in comparison), there is room for independent filmmakers to acquire bigger stars for their films. I’ll See You in My Dreams is an odd film, because the lead role is fairly non-descript – its about Carol, an over-60 year-old woman with a love for life. This means it was possible for nearly every actress in that age group to play the role, and I doubt any of them would’ve declined such a sweet and lovely film. Fortunately, director Brett Haley chose Blythe Danner, a very underrated actress to lead this film. It is her first leading role in nearly forty years, which I find absolutely shocking but also wonderful, as it allowed her to remind us that she is one of the most talented actresses working today, and that women over a certain age can certainly still lead a film effectively.
Danner is truly very likable, not only in this film, but all of her performances. She has an effortless charm that is a true fit for the quaint nature of this film. There are a few performances that are absolutely impossible to dislike, and this seems to be one of them. Danner is sweet, lovely and does not ever over-act or play the role to be overly dramatic, nor overly comedic. She relies on her own natural talents and plays the role with memorable sweetness, and gives a subtle but truly effective performance that I fear some of her contemporaries would have been tempted to take too far. Danner’s performance was perfect, and more than that, it was absolutely exquisite and probably will be the best female performance of the year, because I have yet to see a better one this year, but even if another one does surpass her, Danner’s performance will still remain one of the best – male or female – of the year.
This film boasts a remarkable leading performance from Blythe Danner, but part of the success of I’ll See You in My Dreams is the spectacular supporting cast. Sam Elliot, a wonderful character actor, gives an amazing performance as Bill Young, the love interest to Danner’s character. He is wonderfully funny, but is also surprising sensitive in the role, and probably gives the most touching performance of the entire film, which was a wonderful surprise, because when your career has been playing rough-and-tough cowboys and Texans, such a sweet performance is a wonderful surprise. This film is essentially one about the older generation, and Haley explores all sides of that generation throughout this film, but never lets his film sink into parody. He exemplifies the diversity within that generation wonderfully with the characters of Carol’s friends. Rhea Perlman is hilarious as the vivacious free-spirit Sally. June Squibb is wonderfully funny as the bitter but scandal-loving Georgina and Mary Kay Place is wonderful as the nervous Rona. Their interactions with Danner are absolutely hilarious and result in some of the funniest moments in the film, and possibly some of the funniest scenes of the year as a whole. One downside to this film is that of Martin Starr, who plays the young pool-cleaning Lloyd, who has a very odd relationship with Carol, and I feel Haley failed to actually explore exactly what that relationship was aiming for – was it a friendship, or was it a mentorship, or was it a romantic relationship? It isn’t very clear, and I feel that while Starr was very good, the character wasn’t developed well enough. Malin Åkerman was very good in her brief performance as Danner’s daughter, but I felt she was shoe-horned onto an already memorable film too late in the story, and the story could’ve done away with her and instead concentrate on some of the other characters.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is such a wonderfully sweet and touching film. It doesn’t say much, but what it does say remains with you for a long time afterwards. It reminds us to appreciate absolutely everything we have and to not let life get in the way of us following our dreams and achieving what we want to achieve. As Danner learns in this film, it is never too late to start living again, and the wonderful sense of redemption from a boring life characterizes this film as being a unique statement on existence. It is wonderfully philosophical and gives the audience a ton of entertainment, but also allows us to become introspective and to examine our own lives and to understand that losing someone or not achieving what you wanted is not the end of your efforts, but rather the beginning to try again. It is that exact kind of film that will boost your mood, and that you will want to revisit in your sadder days, just for a small reminder that anything is possible.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is a wonderfully quirky and funny film that boasts great performances from its multi-talented cast. It is a very cute film that I am sure anyone can enjoy, and perhaps even relate to. It is sweeter than any other film you’ll see this year, and will leave you in a great mood for a long time afterwards. It is a truly wonderful film that obeys the indie logic of a film telling a small story with monumental implications behind it. It is a triumph of a film, and I am sure I will be revisiting it soon, because it is truly wonderful beyond words.