The fourth film produced by Margot Robbie for her Lucky Chap Production company, the Aussie A-lister also stars in this drama set during the Great Depression.
Finn Cole plays Eugene, a young man living with his family in a small rural American town. His humdrum life is turned upside down when he finds Allison (Robbie), a bank robber on the run, hiding in his parents’ barn. He agrees to help her escape in exchange for a big payoff, but soon becomes smitten with Allison, seeing her as a path to a more exciting life.
The film has some interesting ideas, but can never seem to quite thread everything together. It’s refreshing to see a story where it’s a young man getting swept off his feet by a charming female criminal, with Allison often having the emotional power over her would-be accomplice. Robbie is powerful in the lead, morphing into whatever she needs to be to get a mile further away from capture. One of those personas is the girl of Eugene’s dreams, a façade he buys into happily. The enigmatic qualities of Robbie’s performance mean we’re never quite sure if she genuinely grows to love him on the way or, as she puts it, she’d “rather be scared with you than alone”.
Equally as intriguing is the setting of a dust bowl town. A broken Dreamland where once everyone came in search of fortune, but now families leave in droves having given up hope. There’s a glimpse of this desperation in George (Travis Fimmel), Eugene’s step-father, a sheriff obsessed with pursuing Allison who perhaps sees some personal redemption in her capture. Outside of the leads, he has the most to do, becoming the cop on their tail who is hoodwinked by his own child.
While these are all interesting ideas, a lack of development means they remain sketches rather than portraits. An ever-present narration from Eugene’s sister tries to fill in the gaps, but the loose ends dangle in the breeze. Sub-plots such as Allison’s relationship with her deceased partner (Garrett Hedlund) and the fate of Eugene’s father don’t really go anywhere. A bathroom love scene feels sudden and awkward. It’s a thin story, told slowly, ensuring that any remanence of tension disappears.
Margot Robbie puts Dreamland on her back and makes something from very little. While this confirms her as a star you can rely on, there are better uses for her talents than this undercooked chase movie.
Dreamland is released in cinemas and on demand from 11th December.