Friday, July 8, 2011

Dream Boy (2008)

Set in 1970's rural Louisiana, shy 15 year-old Nathan (Stephan Bender) and his family have moved from one town to another trying to escape the domestic disintegration within their own home. When Nathan moves in next door to charismatic Roy (Maximillian Roeg), he escapes domestic abuse by developing a relationship with him. Roy is a hunky and honest yet sexually naïve 17 year-old school bus driver. They start a friendship as high school study partners, and soon their strong emotional bond takes a natural turn towards physical attraction, a secret they must hide from those around them in their rural community. In fact, the two learn about one another mostly by what they do not say.

The way the opening scenes are handled is refreshing compared to many films of this nature. But an ominous tone is established early on, setting the stage for a major shift. We soon learn the reason for Nathan’s odd and awkward nature as well as why he is more sexually experienced than Roy. It has to do with his abusive father. Once Roy has initiated Nathan into his circle of friends, the group go on a camping expedition deep in the bayou. There they come across an old plantation house steeped in legends of numerous hauntings. After a night of passion, Nathan briefly breaks away from Roy, only to be forced to confront the demons of his past, with tragic results leading to a brutal reality. Nathan’s final humiliation is gratuitous and cruel. He is martyred by being put out of his misery and returns as an angel. The boy who has been victimized his entire life finally finds love, only to be raped and murdered because of who he is.

Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Jim Grimsley, "Dream Boy" tells a story of awakening physical and emotional desire that take a horrible turn late in the story. Which boy is the "dream boy" for which boy is one of the many questions the film asks. It also probes the effects of sexual abuse in a small family. Stephan Bender and Maximillian Roeg are to be commended for their performances, the kind of natural and honest acting one rarely sees anymore. The two have a strange and wonderful chemistry. This film has a quiet intensity and power, is beautifully paced with attention to detail, which gives it a very genuine feel. There is a simplicity and sparsity to the movie that makes it feel like a classic. Richard Buckner composed the music and recorded the film's soundtrack. The script was written by director James Bolton from Jim Grimsley's novel.

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