This thoughtful Italian drama, Sweet Dreams (Fai bei sogni), an adaptation of the novel by Massimo Gramellini, has a couple of powerful moments, but never truly feels like a story meant for cinema.
Focusing on the character of Massimo, a journalist whose mother died by suicide when he was a boy, Sweet Dreams is a thematically single-minded exploration of grief in the wake of inexplicable loss. The storyline darts between his childhood, both before and after the incident, and his successful but unhappy adulthood, in which he is shown to be unable to escape the spectre of his absent mother.
‘a pensive, sometimes poignant piece of work’
Part of the problem with Sweet Dreams is a lack of consistency. The flashbacks to childhood are notably less engaging than watching the adult Massimo (played earnestly by Valerio Mastandrea). Once his adult self begins to interrogate the circumstances of his mother’s death, both emotionally and informatively, the film starts to gather pace. Almost the most interesting part of the film is seeing Massimo operate as an ostensibly functional individual, writing about sports and conducting (eventful) interviews. It is in these moments that the film’s reality begins to take hold. For much of the runtime, however, and particularly in the childhood scenes, there is an abstract and unreal quality to the plot.
Sweet Dreams simply does not have enough cinematic flair to place director Marco Bellocchio alongside some of the first-rate Italian directors working today (Sorrentino, Guadagnino, etc.), but it is a pensive, sometimes poignant piece of work which creates a palpable sympathy for its central character.
Image: Marco Bellocchio