Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
I'll See You in My Dreams
The iconic Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents) stars in the likable and emotional character study "I'll See You in My Dreams" by director Brett Haley. Haley is particularly adept in portraying the way in which little gestures give way to piercing jolts as in the initial closeups of Danner's character, Carol. As she keeps vigil over her sick dog Hazel, Carol's face is half sad with disappointments that have been building for decades in the way she looks deep into the soulful eyes of her close friend and companion. Throughout the film, Carol is stuck between a confused smile and a sigh. She is shocked and moved into a quizzical orbit by life's perils, most significantly,
the death of her husband.
Publicly she maintains good cheer, yet in private a shade darkens her soft smile. If there ever was a human muppet, Carol would be one.
Despite her sadness, Carol meets with her quirky friends -- Georgina (June Squibb), Sally (Rhea Perlman), and Rona (Mary Kay Place). The three trade bawdy quips to one another, but often they simply look at each other with knowing brows. In this film looks convey much information that makes dialogue merely incidental, to the movie's credit.
Periodically, Carol is harassed by a large black rat, who runs throughout the house only to vanish at random. The rodent might well symbolize the changing events in Carol's life and her fear, given that it first appears during Hazel's diagnosis. Sam Elliott gives a wonderfully understated performance as Carol's new love partner, Bill. He is an earthy country club cowboy, a smoothly seductive type and a self-sufficient bon vivant. He likes to charm but doesn't flaunt.
Each scene is given room to breathe and not one moment is played for easy laughs. Rather than spell everything out at once, we are given blocks of conversational exchanges with each character revealing themselves through a vividness of gesture and behavior a bit at a time, much as in real life.
Martin Starr gives a solid outing as well as Lloyd, a pool cleaner bound by self doubt. While he is somewhat comical in his monotone voice and his hesitant body language, he is by no means a cartoon as his character may have been delivered in other films. His last scene in particular, when he sings a song for Carol in a shaky yet longing tone, has an intense and honest spirit that many films lack, when carried away by headline stars.
The breezy charm of "I'll See You in My Dreams" is infectious and sneaks up on you bit by bit, not all at once like some films.
This is not a big story nor does it pretend to be. Yet in small turns, within the angles of Carol's pensive yet expectant face, you'll know something of what it is to be human, one part watching, one part waiting mixed with tangible want and some real satisfaction in between.
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