Margot Robbie's star power salvages so-so bank robber romance Dreamland

Doomed lovers (Margot Robbie, Finn Cole) go on the run in Miles Joris-Peyrafitte's 1930s-set drama Dreamland. Damon Smith reviews

Margot Robbie as Allison Wells in Dreamland
Damon Smith

DREAMLAND (15, 98 mins) Drama/Thriller/Romance. Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Garrett Hedlund, Kerry Condon, Darby Camp, Stephen Dinh, Hans Christopher and the voice of Lola Kirke. Director: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte.

Released: December 11

RATING: 6/10

DOOMED lovers go on the run in Dreamland, an overly familiar tale of lust in the dust that owes some of its stylistic choices and hopeful romanticism to Terrence Malick's Oscar-winning 1978 drama Days Of Heaven.

The sun beats down relentlessly on director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte's second picture, reducing the American dreams of Depression-era settlers to withered husks as drought and a series of devastating storms parch the farmlands of Texas.

Seeds of hope seldom take root and any brave souls that remain place their faith in the words of the Lord and generous glugs of a liquor bottle.

Screenwriter Nicolaas Zwart uses the faded pastoral idyll as a weather-beaten backdrop to a meeting between a teenage boy, who has been starved of paternal affection, and a fugitive female bank robber with a rap sheet akin to Bonnie and Clyde.

Embers of desire ignite in the picture's languid second half, which is dominated by a prolonged shower sex scene that operates effectively as a demonstration video on water wastage.

Two-time Oscar nominee Margot Robbie discharges her undeniable star power, almost convincing us that she has feelings for Finn Cole's infatuated youth when neither the script nor Joris-Peyrafitte's direction convincingly back up her teary-eyed outpourings.

A female narrator (Lola Kirke) recounts the story of Eugene Baker (Cole), who grows up in the sun-scorched dustbowl of Texas, with his father John (Hans Christopher) and mother Olivia (Kerry Condon). The old man leaves when Eugene is five, sending just one postcard from New Mexico after his angry, night-time exodus.

Eugene grows into an awkward teenager, who escapes the unforgiving weather conditions by immersing himself in the detective magazines he steals from a local store with best friend Joe (Stephen Dinh).

During one of these sorties into town, the boys learn that bank robber and murderer Allison Wells (Robbie) is at large in the state. There is a 10,000 dollar reward for her capture.

Soon after, Eugene stumbles upon the injured fugitive in the family's barn and responds to her pleas for help by nervously removing a bullet from her thigh. Allison paints herself as a victim of bad circumstances and offers the boy $20,000 to steal a vehicle to get her to Mexico.

By aiding a bank robber, Eugene risks dire repercussions for his mother, lawman stepfather George (Travis Fimmel) and little sister Phoebe (Darby Camp).

"This is the land of burden, kid. Now you get to pick yours," Allison coolly summarises.

Dreamland lights up every time Robbie limps on screen, contradicting the narrator's assertion that Eugene is the emotional lynchpin of her oral history. The 98-minute running time feels markedly longer but when the narrative does shift into second gear, an inevitable resolution is hurried.

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