Location: Long Island, NY
Directed by Lars von Trier
Written by Lars von Trier
Helena Bonham Carter as Caoimhe Gallagher
Daniel Day-Lewis as Declan Murphy
Emma Bolger as Caitlin Gallagher
Samantha Morton as Fiona O'Neill
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Patrick O'Neill
Stellan Skarsgard as Jeff Kelly
Tagline: "How far would you go for the revival of a dream?"
Synopsis: It is hard to believe that anybody can ever understand the sacrifices my family went through to come to America. No potatoes meant no money, and no money meant no possible route to America. It pains me to talk about how I got here and what was destroyed along the way, but it is a haunting tale that can only be rectified by its honest and full recital.
Caoimhe Gallagher was a widowed parent living with her sister Fiona, and Fiona's husband Patrick. The two of them cared for Caoimhe's little girl Caitlin as if she were their own. They were forced to give up potato farming and instead moved to the city where industrialized work had taken a popular stance among society.
Caoimhe's dream was to escape the famine of Ireland and get her daughter to the land of opportunity. America. The factory she worked at produced newspapers at a massive, nearly unprecedented rate. Her boss, the tough yet sympathetic Declan, had a troubled past himself. A former alcoholic, he left his wife stranded in a Dublin pub with their seven kids and never saw her again. Although his heart ached after his recovery and he was plagued with guilt, he managed to become a successful man in Dingle and run one of the most successful factories in Ireland.
Caoimhe was delighted to form a close-knit friendship with Declan, though Fiona was immediately suspicious of his intent. She refused his offer to work in the factory and opted instead to stay home and look after Caitlin. One day, Caoimhe is introduced to a man named Jeff at work, who claimed to have a boat willing to take her to America only if she did a few odd jobs for him and Declan before departure. She was warned not to tell her sister about it.
She disobeyed Jeff and told Fiona and Patrick at dinner one night. Fiona begged her not to trust the men, and Patrick insisted that they could all go to America together. Fiona confronted Jeff the next day. Jeff was furious with Caoimhe for telling them and he told her that she would never again dream about American soil, let alone think about it.
Caoimhe was devestated and broke down at work, begging Declan to help her. She repeatedly cried about how sorry she was. Declan did not give up on her, and gave her one last offer: she would have to sleep with him and a few of his friends (including Jeff) to get on the ship. Caoimhe complied after some hesitation and assured herself that it was for her dream and her daughter's welfare.
After an emotional breakdown once she slept with an abusive Jeff, Caoimhe brutally killed him in an act of rage. Declan consoled her and told her that she was almost to America: she didn't have to worry about Jeff. Her final task was to get money for the boat that would take her and Caitlin to America. She knew only one place that she could obtain the money from.
Caoimhe returned home and searched throughout the entire house for Fiona and Patrick's life savings. When she found it, she grabbed Caitlin from bed and attempted to make a hasty retreat; however Fiona confronted her on her way out of the the door and demanded that she return the money. Caoimhe refused and in desperation, she stabbed Fiona in the shoulder with a kitchen knife. Patrick tried to chase and catch her but Caoimhe had gotten too much of a head start and got away.
There was no boat where Declan had promised there would be. The girls camped out at the boatyard until one finally came, and they snuck on. Caoimhe was inevitabely caught one night and thrown overboard. Caitlin was spared because of her age, but did not recive the money Caoimhe had stolen.
New York City, United States
Caoimhe Gallagher's story has made her the victim of the most atrocious and slanderous words I have personally ever witnessed. I know that what she did was for the sake of others. It is hard to forgive her for ruining the lives of two people who took her in, but when your dream is so close to your face that your nostrils are tickled with anticipation, I know how hard it is to deny it its allowance. I do not know the fate of Fiona or Patrick, but I do hope with all of my heart that they have recovered from their terrible fate. I am Caitlin Gallagher, and I will always consider my mother a hero for what she's done for me.
What the Press would say:Lars von Trier has done it again. He has delivered another mind blowing, fragile tale of tragedy and truth; this time his story has a twinge of a technical twist. For a large portion of the movie, von Trier happily plays background music and constantly has light shining in on the set, making the entire atmosphere of Great Famine Ireland a little lighter than it normally would be considered. As the story approaches the gloomier stages however, and the true conflict of Caoimhe Gallagher's life comes to surface, suddenly the set seems darker. The music gets softer, slower, and all around less cheerful until you realize that von Trier has abandoned it completely. All lies on Caoimhe's heavy breathing, occasional dialogue, and pure emotion.
Parts of Revenant Dreams are hard to watch: it is a violent, truthful masterpiece that does not shy away from the grim aspects of life. None of this, however, can detract from its moving story. Throughout the film it is impossible not to sympathize with Caoimhe even when she is forced to thievery and prostitution because above all, it is constantly reinforced that she is a mother. The skillful, sly writing flaunts its power in that respect, but also by deceiving the viewer into believing that Declan is a good man, when he clearly betrays Caoimhe in the end.
The acting is impeccable, as it always is in a von Trier film. Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove, Sweeney Todd) completely embraces the character of Caoimhe Gallagher and undeniably sells the "desperate mother" act. Everything from her pauses to her breathing screams out, "Caoimhe." The best thing about what she did with her character was avoid clichés. No onslaught of tears during every scene, no drawn out moral dilemmas, just realism. Everything was for her daughter, and she let the audience know that.
And who can deny that Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood) is the best actor working today? He is absolutely cultivating and slick as Declan, and perhaps the hatred that one might feel for him is matched by the hate they will feel for the character of Jeff, played by an unsuprisingly sharp Stellan Skarsgard (Breaking the Waves, Good Will Hunting). Skarsgaard and von Trier working together can only mean good things, and Skarsgard does not disappoint. He encompases the masculinity and intimidation that Marlon Brando was once widely known for. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Match Point) also does wonders with a small role, in the role of a supportive and good-hearted husband.
Enough about the men, however. It is the supporting women who carry the emotional baggage of the film. Samantha Morton and Emma Bolger, who once worked together on "In America", are an unstoppable pair. They have numerous scenes together and have unprecedented chemistry. Morton is a master of facial expressions, and uses this mastery to add an emotional touch to a dark story. It's a shame that Emma Bolger does not get the roles that Abigail Breslin or Dakota Fanning are fought over for, because she is the most talented young actress working today. Her voice over and on screen scenes take young acting to an entirely different level.
As a moving and superb picture, Revenant Dreams passes with flying colours. It is as poignant as "The Great Gasby" and as shocking as von Trier's previous films such as "Breaking the Waves". The dream is the true main character of the film, and it carries all of the performances and technical aspects to perfection.
For Your Consideration:
Best Director - Lars von Trier
Best Actress - Helena Bonham Carter
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Supporting Actress - Samantha Morton
Best Supporting Actress - Emma Bolger
Best Supporting Actor - Stellan Skarsgard
Best Supporting Actor - Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
Best Original Screenplay - Lars von Trier