Dreamland (3 stars)

Dreamland

Margot Robbie plays an alluring bank robber in this Great Depression-set crime drama

A crime story-devouring, restless young man faces up to the brutal reality of the life he reveres in this visually stunning, unashamedly sentimental skew on Bonnie and Clyde-type tales. Set in small-town Texas during the Great Depression, Dreamland features Margot Robbie as glamourous but potentially deadly bank robber Allison Wells and rising British star Finn Cole (brother of Joe, his co-star in Peaky Blinders) as the smitten Eugene. As Eugene freaks out about his actions, Allison reminds him, 'I didn't make you anything you didn't already want to be.'

Directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (As You Are) and written by Nicolaas Zwart, it's narrated by the grown-up version of Eugene's little sister Phoebe (The Christmas Chronicles' Darby Camp, with Lola Kirke as the unseen narrator). She relays the family's struggles, as Eugene pines for his drunken, deluded, religious zealot of a father, who left when he was a little boy, and cowers from his police deputy stepdad, George (Travis Fimmel, with a scary glint in his eyes). Immersing himself in fantasies of outlaws, he's all set for someone to take advantage of. With Allison on the run in the vicinity, following a job in which five people were killed, Phoebe observes that the robber was 'like a bat out of hell, heading straight for my brother.'

In limbo since its Brussels and Tribeca festival outings in April last year, Dreamland is crisply and sometimes characterfully lensed by Lyle Vincent (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Thoroughbreds) with the dusty, sparse and inhospitable landscape often strikingly rendered, particularly during sandstorms. The film unfolds in grim, gruelling times, where frissons of excitement are understandably savoured, but is so cloaked in the old-fashioned romance of Eugene's perspective and the adult Phoebe's cultivation of her brother into a legend, that it somewhat undoes any fresher, more insightful flourishes.

Robbie brings convincing complexity to Allison, as her vulnerability and regret rub up against her ruthlessness. If side-lining the double Oscar nominee for much of the duration is frustrating, the film comes alive at least when she's on screen, and there are a couple of tantalising appearances from Garrett Hedlund too. Perhaps not as eventful as you'd hope given the subject matter, Dreamland still largely feels like a class act, while something so emphatically and enjoyably cinematic will be a welcome boost to the industry at this time.

Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 11 Dec.

Dreamland

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte
  • Cast: Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Kerry Condon, Darby Camp, Lola Kirke
  • UK release: 11 December 2020