Teen drama, parkour and fantasy sequences are just a few of the sloppy ingredients that make up this coming-of-age tale.
In Your Dreams! (Berlin Review)
Dreams and reality collide, or rather blandly coexist, in Petr Oukropec’s In Your Dreams!, a coming-of-age tale that combines a teenage girl’s burgeoning emotions with parkour, the form of acrobatic urban exploration that became a passing fad in the early 2000s. Beginning at an off-season ski resort high up in a range of mountains, 16-year-old Laura (Barbora Štikarová) practices back flips while her father (Ivan Martinka) gets ready for the two of them to go out climbing. A tense climbing sequence establishes Laura as a teen whose craving for independence can make her reckless, as she climbs too fast and winds up slipping (lucky for her, the safety harness she complained about moments earlier saves her from falling to her death). This opening, while brief, makes a big impression thanks to director of photography’s Tomáš Sysel gorgeous visuals, using the film’s Cinemascope ratio to capture the jaw-dropping vistas provided by the high-altitude location.
The promise of a film filled with such eye-watering imagery soon dissipates as the movie has a literal and figurative comedown, with Laura abruptly cutting her trip short so she can go back to be with her mother (Klára Melišková) in Prague. Laura’s interests lie more with climbing buildings than mountains, and upon arriving back at her mother’s apartment she goes out with her friend Kaja (Veronika Pouchová) to audition for a spot on a parkour team. Kaja realizes that Laura’s desire to join the all-boys group might have more to do with her crush on Luky (Toman Rychtera), the cocky leader of the team, and after trying out Laura catches his attention, along with the group’s videographer Alex (Jáchym Novotný).
The emotional rush of potentially getting the boy of her dreams starts overwhelming Laura to the point where, when she’s taking the elevator down from her apartment, she falls into a dream world where she finds herself on a beach with Luka by her side. Oukropec’s structuring of his film between Laura’s dreams and the real world feels strange at first, especially when there’s no apparent reason for why she goes into fainting spells whenever she steps into an elevator (after the first incident, a doctor examines Laura but concludes it’s just the boundless mystery of female hormones). And it’s not that Oukropec needs to provide a logical, reality-based reason for his trips into the surreal; he just needs to make the transitions convincing within the realm of his own film, and on that front he comes up short. Compared to the opening minutes, Laura’s dreams look bland in comparison, filtered through drab greys and taking place in the same dull location that implies her own lack of imagination more than anything. It’s a problem that makes Oukropec’s intention of In Your Dreams! as a character-based piece fall flat, with every glimpse into Laura’s head too uninteresting to make anything register.
And once Laura’s dreams and reality begin influencing each other, it’s apparent that the film really has nowhere to go aside from watching its protagonist get over her crush through dreaming. Other aspects of Laura’s life, like a potential romance with Alex or the increasing presence of her mother’s new boyfriend in the apartment, get discarded altogether in the final act, leaving them unresolved or flat-out ignored. There’s also a brief episode where Laura questions whether or not her dreams are more than fantasy, since Luky vanishes after she dreams of him getting locked away, but Oukropec barely commits to Laura’s distressed state. At one point she starts imagining a dog from her dreams following her around in real life, and the development is treated so inconsequentially it just feels like a strange quirk rather than a sign of her further disconnect from reality. Even worse is the way Oukropec decides to wrap things up, letting the contrived climax play out entirely in Laura’s dream world that results in a near-incomprehensible plot resolution. The lazy execution of the film’s more imaginative side keeps Oukropec’s film tethered to its own uninteresting and poorly developed reality, with only Štikarová’s strong performance forming some sort of ground to stand on among the half-baked ideas. Aside from its visuals and some neat parkour stunt work, In Your Dreams! has about as much staying power as the majority of our own dreams.