What Dreams May Come

Year: 1998
Studio: Polygram Filmed Entertainment
Director: Vincent Ward
Writer: Ron Bass/Richard Matheson
Cast: Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra, Cuba Gooding Jr, Max von Sydow

This is one of those 'damn the critics, I loved it' films for me. I’m not sure what grabbed me about it – something to do with the stylish enmeshing of emotion and visuals. The love between Chris (Williams) and his wife Annie (Sciorra) was so palpable the movie bought me to tears a couple of times. And it’s all played out amid a backdrop of inventive scenery that’s executed beautifully.

Despite their love Chris and Annie are barely keeping it together after both their children have died in a car accident, and when Chris dies in another one a few years later it's more than Annie can handle in life. Chris goes to heaven where he's met with a troupe of spirits (Gooding Jr, Chao) who have some secrets of their own, and whose identities are a clever part of the story.

Chris is enthralled at the new world he's found himself in, of a beautiful landscape he and Annie spent their lives dreaming about but one which is made entirely of paint, and Ward's visuals give the work we'd see from Peter Jackson a few years later in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

But, in her grief, Annie takes her own life and goes to hell for her sin, and when Chris learns of her fate he knows his new home can never be heaven without her in it and resolves to go them to find her and bring her back to their shared paradise. Albert (Gooding Jr) takes Chris to meet a mysterious man named The Tracker (von Sydow) who can guide them through hell to find Annie, but the chances are slim – as a condition of her purgatory, Annie not only has no idea she's dead but won't recognise Chris when she sees him.

It’s beautifully rendered, scripted and played. Williams and Sciorra are both perfectly suited but never over the top, and while director Ward (working from a script based on the novel by Richard I Am Legend Matheson) pulls your heartstrings hard it's never in your face.

It's not for everyone, and you'll appreciate it more if you're in a romantic and loving mood, but for an emotional depiction of the afterlife that puts The Lovely Bones to shame and with a beautifully melancholy love story thrown in, look no further.

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