A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Be true to yourself. When words fail, music speaks. You never really fail unless you fail to try. Less positively, the film also sends the message that, to honor someone's memory, you have to prioritize their goals over your own.
Positive Role Models
Sam is trying to do the right thing by her late sister and her sister's bandmates and retain her own identity while navigating the murky waters of the corporate music machine. But she also puts her own dreams/plans second to pursuing her late sister's. Characters are wholesome. The cast is mostly White; one Latinx character's ethnicity is played up to the point of bordering on offensive. Step-fathers are portrayed positively.
Violence & Scariness
A character is dealing with loss/grief.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirtatious behavior in a romance that develops slowly over time. Kissing. Positive depiction of a long-term relationship.
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Insults are shouted at a band ("you're trash"), and someone calls themselves a "dingus."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Even in Dreams is a dramedy about an aspiring singer named Sam (Monica Moore Smith) who's coping with the loss of her sister while trying to navigate the Nashville music machine. For starry-eyed kids who fantasize about pop stardom, Sam's frustrations are accurate, if oversimplified, versions of the real issues some artists face (one-sided contracts, molding an image, band drama, etc). But the movie glosses over the hard work and perseverance it takes to succeed. And the way Sam handles her loss begins to feel unhealthy: She steps into her late sister's role in her band, she performs music written by her sister, and she dedicates all her time and energy to realizing her sister's dream over her own. This somewhat iffy message aside, the film is free of iffy content: There's no language, violence, or sexual content beyond a couple of kisses. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This mild dramedy is like a dot-to-dot of what happens as a band makes it in the music industry: It's an identifiable picture, but it lacks the color and definition needed to make it a work of art. It may speak to tweens and young teens with musical aspirations, as it's goofy, relatable, and has an eye on family. And Sam's naivete is in line with that of many of the movie's young target viewers, so as she encounters those moments when your gut tells you something is off but you don't yet have the life experience to know better, kids are likely to sympathize. For instance, when a respected professional gives you guidance, should you question their help? And what do you do when the right choice for you isn't the right choice for everyone who depends on you? Even in Dreams offers a virtual fountain of wall-quote-level advice (i.e. "You never really fail, unless you fail to try"), but it doesn't go far enough.
Those who grew up watching U.S. TV in the 1970s and '80s may delight in Alison Arngrim's performance as hard-nosed music manager Debra -- she shows us exactly who the character she's best known for, Nellie Olsen from Little House on the Prairie, would be today, and it's so fun. But other than that, nothing else stands out: The music mostly feels like Radio Disney circa 2009, and certain moments are confusing. That's because this feature is, oddly, a sequel to Ostler's little-seen 2019 short Twice the Dream, which set up characters, relationships, and situations that are referenced here. As a standalone film, Even in Dreams makes it seem like Sam is just taking over her late sister's life, trying to fulfill Amber's dream as if she has no hopes or goals of her own. That lack of context proves problematic, sending the message that, to honor someone's memory, you have to prioritize their goals over your own. And there's another issue: Sam is truly struggling emotionally with losing Amber, whom she talks about frequently, and no one offers or suggests she get help. While Sam processes her grief by keeping a connection to Amber, viewers are left watching a story about loss that might leave them feeling lost instead.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.