Sweet themes are shoddily executed in Opal Dream, another tale from director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) about outsiders doggedly holding onto their aspirations. Based on Ben Rice’s acclaimed novella, this assiduously sugary family film involves a clan in South Australia’s Coober Pedy mining community whose tenuous livelihood—based on dad Rex’s (Vince Colosimo) unproductive search for valuable opal—is put at risk by eight-year-old daughter Kellyanne’s (Sapphire Boyce) fixation on her imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan. Kellyanne spends her days and nights with her invisible playmates, forcing mom Annie (Jacqueline McKenzie) to set extra seats at the dinner table for them (and their lollipop meals) and driving frustrated dad and brother Ashmol (Christian Byers) up the wall with a nonstop barrage of nonsense. When Pobby and Dignan go missing, Rex and Ashmol reluctantly search for the duo rather than telling the irrational and unreasonable girl to pipe down and go to bed, a mistake that lands them in legal trouble when a nasty prospector accuses Rex of theft. Despite the fact that Kellyanne is clearly loony-tunes and selfish to boot, not caring that her make believe games have made her father a pariah and landed him in court, Cattaneo’s whimsical narrative treats her as merely an inventive soul who instinctively recognizes the vitality of dreams, a disposition that links her to Rex, who stubbornly clings to expectations of one big score. Yet because Opal Dreams shrugs off Kellyanne’s psychologically screwy behavior as youthful creativity while also letting her parents off the hook for enabling their daughter’s unhealthy and socially alienating behavior, it’s almost impossible to become swept up in the film’s wannabe-heartwarming portrait of hope and belief as the human spirit’s lifeblood. Well, because of that and Boyce’s performance, which amounts to fluttering about like a deranged pixie, obnoxiously pouting over the mistreatment of her pretend companions, and—once her character has fallen “sick with worry”—coughing and moaning like a self-pitying Tiny Tim.
- Strand Releasing
- 85 min
- Peter Cattaneo
- Peter Cattaneo, Ben Rice, Phil Traill
- Vince Colosimo, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Byers, Sapphire Boyce, Peter Callan, Denise Roberts
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: