Below Dreams tracks a trio of radically diverse twenty-somethings traveling to, arriving at, and wandering around New Orleans in search of work, love, validity, and stability. In combination with race and class, they have each made distinct decisions in life – many of them likely not for the best – that have led them to their current situations, and they are now struggling to find their way. Once aimless or misguided, these young individuals are recovering Millennials realizing that life is not what they realized it would be.
The film follows a young mother of four, who, though she has no real place to live, dreams of being an actress and model; an earnest, but floundering ex-con, who, in desperate need of a job, succumbs to pressures to “clean up his appearance;” and a lovelorn NYC transplant, foolishly chasing a love that was never really there.
The film clearly wants to focus on authenticity, and this film is tangible reality – filled with struggles, disappointment, glimmers of something more, and most importantly, hope. Shot in cinéma vérité style, the film has a lyrical documentary look and feel. Populated by non-professional actors, the film is very naturalistic, a fact that is accentuated by shooting on film, rather than digital.
Director Garrett Bradley’s attention is far more focused on the hypnotic images and layered sounds of life rather than a traditional narrative. The film follows no real direction, just forward, like the three main characters’ drive. It takes occasional asides that, though they do not affect the overall story, they do enhance the aesthetic and atmosphere – like a surprisingly informed dusk discussion at a roadside service station and a hypnotically blue music hall jam session.
New Orleans itself is not intrinsic to the story, but the city’s diversity and languid way of life lend itself well to the film. Regardless, for a film set in New Orleans (not just filmed here), everything is refreshingly devoid of the clichéd “N’Awlins” that plagues most films set in the city. Below Dreams is about the realities of life and a generation coming to terms with that, not just in New Orleans, but universally.
Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, Below Dreams also won Best Cinematography and a Special Jury Prize at last year’s New Orleans Film Festival.
Below Dreams is available on VOD (iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, VUDU) on Tuesday, April 21. It is also playing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
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