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Parents' Guide to

Even in Dreams

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Wholesome but corny musical dramedy about grief.

Movie PG 2021 115 minutes
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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.

Movie Details

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