Sweet Dreams (3 stars)

Sweet Dreams

Beautiful yet sentimental drama from veteran director Marco Bellocchio, featuring Bérénice Bejo

More than 50 years after his breakthrough feature Fists in the Pocket, director Marco Bellocchio remains one of the most distinctive and adventurous voices in Italian cinema. Sweet Dreams (Fai bei sogni) may be based on the autobiographical novel by Massimo Gramellini but it returns to familiar themes for Bellocchio: from the power of cherished memories to the open wound of broken family ties.

Valerio Mastandrea is well cast as Massimo, a successful journalist with a career that ranges from war correspondent in Sarajevo to sports reporter and agony aunt. His life has been permanently darkened by the loss of his beloved mother when he was just nine-years-old. It is an event that he felt so deeply that he has never been able to love anyone else 'just as a matter of self-preservation'. Moving between Massimo's lonely life in 1990s Turin and his childhood in the 1960s, the film follows him as he finally confronts the secrets and lies surrounding his mother's death in the hope that the truth might set him free.

There is something almost Dickensian in Sweet Dreams with its themes of loss, abandonment and childhood trauma finding their most obvious echo in Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Yet Bellocchio takes a surprisingly sentimental approach to the source material, viewing the past through a golden glow and tugging at the heartstrings as Massimo confronts his demons.

There are some striking scenes that capture joyous moments as the young Massimo dances the twist, or cowers from a favourite television show. There are warm performances from Emmanuelle Devos as a friend's loving mother and especially from Bérénice Bejo as a sympathetic, caring doctor. It is a beautifully photographed, often poignant film but one that never quite becomes the sum of its parts.

Limited release from Fri 24 Feb.

Sweet Dreams

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 2h 11min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Marco Bellocchio
  • Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Valerio Mastandrea, Emmanuelle Devos,
  • UK release: 24 February 2017

Massimo (Mastandrea) is a successful journalist whose life has been permanently darkened by the loss of his beloved mother when he was nine. Beautiful yet sentimental drama from veteran director, with Mastandrea well cast and warm performances from Devos and especially Bejo, but it never quite becomes the sum of its parts.