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STOCKHOLM 2018

Review: Beyond Dreams

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- Shown as part of the Special Presentations at Stockholm, Rojda Sekersöz’s debut feature boasts a fantastic lead actress in Evin Ahmad

Review: Beyond Dreams
Evin Ahmad in Beyond Dreams

“And the good girls go to heaven, but the bad girls go everywhere,” sang Meat Loaf in 1993, but Rojda Sekersöz has more precise ideas – at least as far as geography is concerned. In her debut feature, Beyond Dreams [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, shown as part of the Special Presentations at the Stockholm Film Festival, bad girls from the suburbs of Stockholm want to go to Montevideo. It’s a trip that’s been planned for quite a while, and which has been postponed by Mirja’s (Evin Ahmad) run-ins with the law. “It’s ironic that you always played a cop as a kid,” observes her friend dryly, and soon enough, she needs to get her act together. First because her sick mother (Finnish actress Outi Mäenpää) not-too-subtly orders her to do so in between coughing fits, then because she actually feels it’s time.

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If it all sounds like a rather predictable coming-of-age story, fear not – Sekersöz doesn’t care much for Hollywood narratives, as effective as they are worn out, and in her film, things don’t always go the way you would want them to. From something that at first seems to be rapidly veering into Spring Breakers territory, with a group of no-nonsense girls calling each other “fake communists”, dressing up as Ariel or Pocahontas and chilling in a pool (even if it’s just an inflatable one pushed into the corner of a room with a barely-there palm tree drawn on a wall), the story certainly doesn’t stay there. Soon, Mirja ventures out on her own, and so does the movie.

Which is not entirely unwelcome, as Evin Ahmad (also seen recently in Eva Husson’s Cannes entry Girls of the Sun [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Eva Husson
film profile
]
) delivers a real firecracker of a performance, perfectly believable both when, to quote Spike Lee, doing the right thing or completely missing the mark. Once Mirja gets a job, first washing dishes and then slowly moving up to room service, she perfectly plays out the satisfaction that her character gets from the little things, like being able to buy groceries instead of resorting to shoplifting. She also proves that, in certain situations, there is still some life in the old “You talkin’ to me?” monologue.

While unnecessarily burdened with supporting characters that don’t necessarily strike the audience as real, and emotionally loaded lines that – let’s face it – you have heard before, what is most striking about Beyond Dreams is its rather realistic approach to friendships and relationships that are not unconditional, and that people simply outgrow sometimes – even against their will. In Sekersöz’s world, the cheery “girl power” advertised by the Spice Girls in the 1990s has long lost its charm, and Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and Sporty need to either grow up and face the music, or run. But even when they do, no one would ever hear them complain.

Produced by Agneta Fagerström-Olsson and Annika Hellström, of 2afilm AB, in collaboration with SVT and DR, Beyond Dreams was distributed in Sweden by NonStop Entertainment. Its international sales are handled by Pluto Film Distribution Network.

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