What Dreams May Come (1998)

It’s pretty shocking that a film meant to be life affirming is probably so depressing it likely drove most of its original audience to suicide. I get that Vincent Ward’s movie about the after life is trying its hardest to assure audiences that no matter how sucky your life is, there are rewards in heaven, but come on. “What Dreams May Come” is by no means an inspirational fantasy film, so much as it is preachy religious hokum that turns the after life in to Middle Earth.

Setting its sights on four of the unluckiest characters in the history of fiction, Robin Williams plays a man named Chris who marries his wife Annie. After forming a family, their life is ruined when both of their children are killed in a fatal car accident. To add insult to injury, Chris also dies shortly after. In her anguish and pain, Chris’s wife Annie commits suicide. Probably after screaming “What a week I’m having!” So since Chris loved his wife’s paintings so much, his after life is pastels and vivid landscapes. What I’m wondering is, if Annie is damned to hell for committing suicide, why did heaven see fit to mimic her painting? Isn’t that kind of a tease? It’s like letting someone in to the playboy mansion while playboy playmates are on vacation. What’s the point? And why should Chris’ wife be damned to hell for committing suicide?

I mean, life has been one royal epic suck fest, wouldn’t there be extenuating circumstances? In either case, once Chris learns that his wife has been damned to the pits of purgatory for committing suicide, he decides to venture deep in to the bowels of the after life to find her and bring her back to the light side of the after life. “What Dreams May Come” would be visually amazing if it weren’t so sullen and insanely underwhelming in terms of story. What I kept wondering was: Are we still supposed to be faithful believers in a God after watching this movie? If this movie subscribes to the idea that this family is being put through some cosmic test, why is Annie banished to hell for committing suicide? Why would this family suffer so much and have to endure so much?

What makes them so unique and or cursed? And if Chris and Annie are re-united as re-incarnated soul mates, aren’t they destined to re-live these tragedies and calamities all over again? And if re-incarnation is posed this time, would that imply they were re-incarnated before? What did they do to warrant such horrible punishments in the next lives? In any case, “What Dreams May Come” is a lot of spiritual hokum that really tries to turn a miserable and fruitless experience in to something positive. Much as director Vincent Ward tries to make this an uplifting tale, it’s really a depressing and grim tale about two tragic lovers that happen to be the most unlucky people in existence. It’s a sullen and woefully boring religious sermon that just fails to work as a remotely watchable cinematic experience.