Ireland / 71 minutes / bw / Blank Canvas Dir & Scr: Eoin C. Macken Pr: Eoin C. Macken, Gerry Balfe Smyth Cine: Gerry Balfe Smyth Cast: Eoin Macken, Kettie Rompre, Tom Lambertson, James Catanzaro, Rekha Luther, Seijo Imazaki, Frank Macken, Bjorn Milz, Doug Porter, Robert Ross.
Adam Chambers (Macken), an Irish-born resident of NYC, is clearly in psychological difficulties. His cramped apartment on West 4th Street is a cesspit, he hurls abuse at his reflection in the mirror, he’s months behind with the rent and has been served with an eviction notice, he enacts suicide in his bath but his blunt knife won’t cut the skin. The one island of stability in his life is his beautiful girlfriend Kayla (Rompre); although her situation is never clearly spelled out, she apparently has a steady job at an art gallery. By contrast, Adam is supposedly an actor but has difficulty plucking up the nerve to go to casting calls, instead spending his days mostly wandering the city and neglecting to return Kayla’s phonecalls.
Kayla (Kettie Rompre) listens as Adam hurls abuse at himself. Note the noirish poster!
One night, as he heads home from yet another aimless ramble, he behaves offensively toward a cigarette-scrounging stranger (Catanzaro), and the stranger responds by beating him up. A homeless man, David (Lambertson), comes to his rescue and helps him get home. In gratitude, Adam offers to put David up for a while on his couch.
Adam (Eoin Macken) demonstrates what to do with an eviction notice.
Until the appearance of David the movie seems quite aimless—as aimless, in fact, as Adam’s existence. It hasn’t been boring, though, because we’ve been treated to a good soundtrack (original music by The Evora, Kevin Whyms, Ian McSweeney and John Fahy) and some truly exceptional cinematography by Gerry Balfe Smyth. Of especial note is the location shooting in NYC, both aboveground and in the subway. Smyth’s eye picks out faces and all sorts of trivial events that brilliantly epitomize the city, whether it be two leashed dogs raring for a fight or a water-seller snacking while business is slow.
Smyth seems to have fallen in love with the subway, too, once again observing faces and the effects created by those mysterious bursts of steam that the trains for some reason generate. There’s a particularly impressive short sequence where Adam’s in an otherwise empty carriage. We’re looking at him from behind, and the movement of the train suggests that it’s traveling in the same direction that he and we are facing. But in fact we can see through the window beyond him that the direction of travel is in fact towards us. It’s a wonderful piece of disorientation that seems to reflect the disorientation that Adam dwells daily in.
Adam (Eoin Macken) on the way to Coney Island.
The scene of the scuffle and David’s rescuing of Adam shows that Smyth’s cinematography is just as comfortable with action as it is with passive, on-location observation.
Pretty music and fine cinematography can take a movie only so far, though. The arrival of David seems to give Dreaming for You purpose. For one thing, Lambertson is by some distance the best actor in the cast. For another, the character seems to inspire Macken in his role as scripter. Here’s David talking about his first day in the shelter of Adam’s apartment:
“I was looking out the window earlier. At everything . . . and nothing. You know, just people. I was appreciating, you know, being in here as opposed to being out there. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that. It’s the little things that you don’t realize, you know, like cold milk, warm food, hell, the calmness. I took a shower, the water was warm the whole time. You ever watch people? Ever wonder where they’re going, what they’re doing? Huh. When you’re living on the street you got all the time in the world, I mean, I got all the time in the world to do that. I, I know things about people, you know, I watch people, I know more about them than they know about theirselves. You know, but looking down out the window, I felt detached, and I, I could understand why people would just walk by me while I was on the street.”
With Adam having found a new companion in David, Kayla has likewise found (or rediscovered) companionship in Clare (Luther). Where Kayla is fairly restrained, Clare is effervescent, almost pummeling Kayla with advice about life, love (which Clare professes to despise) and sex—mostly about sex. Clare’s view seems generally to favor a fuck-’em-and-leave-’em policy; if you do find yourself with a steady boyfriend, the best plan is to dole out sex in only meager rations, so that he’ll always be desperate for more.
Clare (Rekha Luther), Kayla’s girlfriend and bad adviser.
Kayla (Kettie Rompre) pretends to agree with Clare, but . . .
Kayla expresses agreement with all this, and lies that this is exactly her attitude towards Adam: “It’s just sex.” Of course, it’s blatantly obvious to us that the only possible reason she could still be hanging around with him, bearing in mind that he treats her atrociously and is clearly nuts, must be that she loves him. Amusingly, there’s an echo of Clare’s keep-him-begging-for-more advice when Kayla is discussing with a client, Jordan (Ross), an artist whose work Jordan much likes. When Jordan rues to her that the artist isn’t very prolific, Kayla replies: “But then each painting wouldn’t mean as much. She makes you appreciate her.”
The landlord (Frank Macken) wants Adam out.
Jordan is an actors’ agent, and agrees as a favor to Kayla—to whom he’s obviously much attracted—to meet Adam as a possible client. Adam, characteristically, doesn’t bother to phone the man and then later lies to Kayla that they had a meeting and it went well. When that lie causes her to make a fool of herself in front of Jordan, we sense that this might just be the final straw for the relationship.
By now we’ve surely begun to suspect, if we haven’t done so long ago, that David is not at all what he seems, that indeed he’s merely a figment of Adam’s schizoid imagination. The suspicion’s confirmed—no great surprise—when Adam forces “David” into filming a “scene” with him that he can use as an aid in finding acting jobs. The “scene” is a lethal truth-telling game with a knife. It soon emerges that David is already cognizant of all Adam’s secrets:
“I know all about you too. I know that you made your mom feel guilty about taking you away from Ireland, I know that you hated her out there on stage. You couldn’t stand all those people adoring her all the time.”
The “scene” is very neatly shot, partially through the monitor of the video camera Adam is using to preserve it. We see both versions: the one that Adam thinks he’s filming and the one in which he is in fact alone.
Adam (Eoin Macken) starts to film the scene with David (Tom Lambertson).
The truth of the scene.
Of course, the revelation about David’s status reminds us that there were all sorts of oddities in the conversations between Kayla and Clare that might seem to be clues to a similar relationship (as it were) there as well. The two names even sound alike. It’s one of the strengths of the movie that this issue is left unresolved.
According to the credits, this was developed from a short that Macken made; that would appear to have been Dreaming for You (2007), which was a selection at the 2007 Short Film Festival of Los Angeles. The credits also inform us that the feature-length version was an Official Selection at the Galway Film Fleadh, 2009.
Adam (Eoin Macken) in epiphany.
Dreaming for You is by no means a perfect movie—some of the acting’s a bit tepid and the “surprise” denouement is anything but (although it is very well handled in the event)—but it’s a fine example of the strengths that indie movies can bring to the table. The greatest of those strengths, at least so far as this watcher is concerned, is obviously Smyth’s wonderfully evocative cinematography, but there’s much else of interest here too. Macken has posted a good copy to YouTube.
Cinematographer Gerry Balfe Smyth’s visual love affair with New York and its people.
3 thoughts on “Dreaming for You (2009)”
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John, I’ll definitely have to check this one out on You Tube, as it is not on DVD anywhere. I am intrigued by the NYC photography, score and characters. You have penned a remarkably engrossing and provocative review that should win over any who conclude its one to take a pass on.
The YouTube copy is a very good one, thanks to the generosity of the director. The movie would be really quite interesting without the cinematography, but the cinematography is such a complete knockout that I have no hesitation in recommending Dreaming for You to anyone.