Dream Scenario Review: A Disturbing Examination of the Psyche

Dream Scenario (2023).

In Dream Scenario, a uniquely original black comedy fantasy, acclaimed director Kristoffer Borgli seamlessly meshes fantastical elements with raw emotion to create an engaging narrative. Backed by an eclectic cast and featuring unforgettable moments of sublime absurdity, the film provides an amusing exploration of one man’s global foray into the subconscious.

Dream Scenario plays on the ubiquity of dreams, mining humor from the discomfort they can sometimes inspire. The film examines an everyday biology professor, Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage), who inexplicably materializes in strangers’ dreams. Not a central player in these dream sequences but merely a detached spectator, he quickly attracts the interest of the global public, resulting in both delight and dismay.

Nicolas Cage excels as Paul, manifesting his initial incredulity and excitement, then distress and outrage with startling realism. In a scene where Paul desperately argues with his wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson) about the negative impact his ‘dream intrusions’ have had on their life, Cage displays a profound vulnerability beneath his outrage. Nicholson complements him well as the wife desperately clinging to normalcy in their bizarre circumstances.

The film humorously integrates iconic cultural elements, with references to Facebook, Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne, and more, which inject the film with a slice-of-life authenticity. However, the best comedy comes from the unpredictable and ludicrous dream scenarios. The ever-churning dream wheel throws Paul into an array of awkward and absurdist situations, which incites hilarious results. Notably, the storyline regarding Paul’s dabble in reenacting an assistant’s erotic dream about him is handled in a refreshingly light and witty manner.

It’s clear Borgli was very thoughtful in his use of satire and humor to navigate heavy themes. This includes the destructive power of global attention and the severe repercussions of intruding into other’s privacy. Paul’s transition from global dream spectator to violent dream perpetrator leads to tragicomic sequences. The scene paints a vivid picture of the immense impact a single individual’s ego can have on their environment.

However, it’s in the third act where Borgli really showcases his craftsmanship as a filmmaker. After a severe backlash that sends Paul spiraling down an emotional pit, we witness his clumsy attempts at redemption in a melancholic dream world. Cage truly shines here, channelling raw emotion to encapsulate the poignant gravity of the character’s solitude and longing for redemption. The inclusion of dream-travel technology brilliantly enhances the plot, and provides an unexpected and genuinely satisfying resolution.

However, there were moments where the film could’ve had better pacing. The scenes of Paul’s fame move fast, leaving us little time to see the dynamics between him and his wife. The sudden shifts between light-hearted and dark themes can be a bit jarring, potentially disconnecting audiences.

Additionally, supporting cast members Michael Cera, Tim Meadows, and Dylan Gelula have surprisingly limited screen-time. It would’ve been intriguing to see how their characters navigate their association with Paul during the strange events that unfold.

Despite these minor drawbacks, Dream Scenario offers a comically profound and twisted examination of the psyche. An outstanding performance from Cage, innovative storytelling and irresistible humor contribute to make the film a truly refreshing film. It certainly stands out as a wildly amusing, eccentric, yet thought-provoking take on fame, dreams, and reality.

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Dream Scenario Review: A Disturbing Examination of the Psyche
  • Acting - 8.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 8/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8/10
  • Watchability - 9/10
  • Rewatchability - 8/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.