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Recommended age 8-18
110 minutes
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DREAMIN Click to play video trailer
With its toe-tapping music and sincere performances, Dreamin' Wild definitely entertained me and I believe will enrapture pop-rock fans as well as those who have never heard of Donnie and Joe Emerson. The film tells a true story with immense heart. It is shot elegantly and the story is fascinating; the at-times flat narration is the only chink in Dreamin Wild's armor.

Dreamin' Wild opens in the rural Pacific Northwest, as singer/songwriter Donnie Emerson (Casey Affleck) and his family, are approached by a representative from Light in the Attic, who says he thinks the album Donnie and his brother Joe (Walton Goggins) recorded as teenagers is the next big hit. When the album, also named Dreamin' Wild, makes its rounds, it is hailed by music critics as a lost masterpiece. And whereas the brothers see this stroke of luck as a second chance for stardom, it also unmoors other deep-seated emotions, fears, and hopes, as Donnie, Joe, and the family come to terms with the past, present and possible future.

The moving story is shot with clarity, care and craft; the lighting and framing do justice to the Emersons' bucolic hometown as well as their eclectic and ethereal 'jam space.' Casey Affleck has somewhat patented the 'damaged man exploring his trauma' trope, perhaps because of his real-life experience fending off his demons with alcoholism. That takes nothing away from his deep performance as Donnie in Dreamin' Wild. His portrayal of emotional damage and hope is enough to keep you gripped. Walton Goggins is equally spectacular. Every dialogue-heavy scene is followed by the brothers jamming, and then another dialogue-heavy scene; this format gets a little tiring by the 60-minute mark, but the plot developments and emotional performances redeem the film's at-times slow pace.

Dreamin' Wild encourages following your dreams but staying grounded, being hopeful but never forgetting where you've come from, and caring for your family and yourself.

I give Dreamin' Wild 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. Dreamin' Wild will release exclusively in theaters on August 4, 2023.

see youth comments
Dreamin' Wild, the true story of love and redemption, is about what happened to singer/songwriter Donnie Emerson and his family when the album he and his brother recorded as teens was rediscovered after thirty years of obscurity and was suddenly hailed by music critics as a lost masterpiece. While the album's rediscovery brings hopes of second chances, it also brings long-buried emotions as Donnie, his wife Nancy, brother Joe, and father Don Sr. come to terms with the past and their newly found fame.
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