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Like a Dream: Review

Clara Law's 'Like a Dream', which is screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival, has stunning shots of Shanghai and a moving soundtrack. But, Sarah Green wonders, is it enough to make up for its irritating narrative?

You know you didn’t quite get a film when your first thought afterward is ‘I need to find a review’.

Clara Law’s Like a Dream had its first Australian screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival last night. So far I’ve resisted the urge to scour film websites. Thus, I’m still none the wiser.

Like a Dream begins with, of all things, the death of a relatively unloved pet cat. Having settled in for what I assumed was a black comedy, 118 minutes later I wasn’t sure whether I was having an existential crisis or if I was just plain irritated. Note to self: Not the best idea to decide the film you’re going to with just a quick glance at the paper en route to the cinema.

The film centres on Max, a Chinese man living in New York, and his obsessive desire to find the bereaved woman that continually appears in his dreams.  Max travels to Shanghai on business and in the middle of the city manages to meet a woman who’s the spitting image of his dreamed companion (leave all scepticism at the door please). Unfortunately for Max, his mystery woman’s real-life counterpart is a self-confessed ‘country girl’, not the high-flying city worker of his dreams.

After screaming ‘foreign devil’ at Max for a few days, the real-life woman is quickly won over to his cause, joining him in the hunt for her supposed doppelganger. What follows is a complex weaving of Max’s two worlds, leading to the inevitable ‘which woman will he choose’ dilemma.

The film certainly has its impressive moments: stunning shots of Shanghai, a moving soundtrack and a few excellent ‘black comedy’ gags. Whether or not that’s enough to balance out less spectacular moments (cheesy impromptu ballet duet anyone?), I’ll leave up to more seasoned reviews.

Speaking of, I sneaked a glance at The Hollywood Reporter and they’ve concluded that ‘little thematic and less narrative sense make for difficult viewing that often tests the patience’.

Whew, looks like I’m not the only one confused.

Sarah Green is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University, and is a member of upstart’s editorial team.

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