"If you want a feel-good film with some good music and terrific acting and directing then I would recommend you check out Dreamin' Wild - both the movie and the album."
How many of us were part of garage bands when we were teenagers? How many thought we were going to become big stars after winning a "Battle of the Bands" contest at our local high school? How many people actually recorded an album and "made it big"? Donnie and Joe Emerson managed to do it all with the exception of "making it big". Well, …that is until a producer came knocking on their door, thirty years after their record was originally released. Dreamin' Wild, the feature film from director Bill Pohlad (Love and Mercy), is their incredible story about finding fame…finally.
Donnie (Casey Affleck; Manchester by the Sea) and Joe (Walter Goggins; Django Unchained) grew up on the family's 1600-acre property in Washington along with their parents and their two sisters. Showing an interest in music from an early age, their parents encouraged them, even building them a state-of-the-art recording studio. As teenagers, Donnie and Joe would spend as much time as they could writing and recording music. Eventually, they self-produced an album called Dreamin' Wild that got Donnie a solo deal but which ended unsuccessfully. However, thirty years later, their lost record made it to Light in the Attic Productions who rereleased it to moderate success.
Affleck and Goggins are well cast as the musical brothers who have different ideas and visions regarding their music. Affleck comes across as the brooding artist while Goggins is the cheerleader encouraging his brother to follow his Dream. Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys) has the natural demeanor to portray the boys' calm and steady father who does what he has to help both his sons pursue their dreams. Up-and-coming actors Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) and Jack Dylan Glazer (Shazam!) are excellent as the teenage Donnie and Joe, respectively.
While Dreamin' Wild is one of the "based on real events" genre, Pohlad takes the time to focus on the Emerson family as a whole and the supportive, genuine people they are. The story could have easily showcased Donnie and Joe creating the album, trying to market it, Donnie heading to California alone and the resurgence of the album but Pohlad, who also co-wrote the script, decided the story should be more about the Emerson family. This choice gives the movie a warmth, connection, and familiarity that would have not been there had the writers/director chosen a different path.
Dreamin' Wild has great pacing that hooks the audience during the first fifteen minutes of the film and keeps them interested throughout the 110-minute run time. The sound production is well done which is important since the music seems to be its own character that deserves the best quality. The cinematography emphasizes the vast acreage the Emersons' had once owned without distracting from the overall story.
If you want a feel-good film with some good music and terrific acting and directing then I would recommend you check out Dreamin' Wild - both the movie and the album. With so many action/violent movies flooding theaters, this offers a nice respite from the guns, explosions, and blood we have all become accustomed to watching. The album is soulful, eclectic, rich, and wise beyond its teen writer's years.
Dreamin' Wild premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2022 and a year later it was picked up by Roadside Attractions and released in theaters this past summer. Today, September 26, 2023, Dreamin' Wild comes to VOD and digital platforms.