Bridgerton’s (2021) up-and-coming star, Ruby Barker, takes her acting to the next level in this nail-biting trip about a family life being torn apart. Barker takes a step back from the decadence of Bridgerton, and instead flaunts her edginess whilst taking the audience on a whirlwind experience of trauma, loss, and separation. How to Stop a Recurring Dream is Ed Morris’ feature directorial debut, and he does not hold back with his imagery and dramatic moments; Morris has created an impactful narrative with sure talent and a realistic depiction of a blended family dealing with various difficult and serious themes and events.
How to Stop a Recurring Dream depicts the saddening story of a split custody agreement that sends the already broken family into a spiral of unfortunate events. After Mum and Dad announce the “temporary” split, Yakira (the oldest daughter) decides to take matters into her own hands, and kidnaps her younger half-sister, taking to the road in a moment of desperation. A runaway driver without a license, and a child locked in the boot – this story is definitely an adventure, to say the least.
This film does not shy away from the darker themes in the narrative, though these themes are dealt with sensitively and emotively. The underlying storyline of Yakira’s mother’s death haunts her throughout the narrative, prominently with a recurring dream – hence the title – of her helplessness as her mother lays dead in hospital. The quirky use of cinematography in this film conveys the recurring dream in a trippy, eye-catching way – positioning the audience in Yakira’s mind whilst also being overwhelmed by the imagery. Yakira appears in various claustrophobic spaces in her recurring dream, suffocating in her sub-conscious, and simultaneously creating discomfort for the audience as they feel disjointed and confused. The surrealism of the dream sequences, juxtaposed with the severe realism of the family issues, creates a powerful contrast and keeps the audience on their toes.
The disconcerting atmosphere created through the cinematography is actually a running theme throughout the film; there is always a sense of danger. If the idea of a teenager kidnapping her younger sister was not enough of an enticement, Morris continues to add other dimensions to the plot. At one point in the narrative, a strange hitchhiker (Andre Flynn) joins the runaway sisters when he gets into the car and demands to be taken to his destination. On witnessing the cries of her younger sister from the boot, Yakira realises she has to keep him sweet in order to avoid being turned in. This moment triggers a catastrophic number of events, as Flynn’s character derails their journey and creates more drama than before. Flynn, though a small part, definitely shines on screen, and increases the audience’s sense of discomfort through his odd mannerisms and concerning crypticism.
Morris creates this general sense of doom, whilst also portraying a sensitive and emotional family drama riddled with trauma and guilt. This film is explorative but retains an interesting narrative, a good amount of twists, and top acting that impresses throughout. If you were doubtful of Barker in Bridgerton, definitely give this a watch – a stunning performance, and a great part.
Dir: Ed Morris
Prd: Polly du Plessis
Scr: Ed Morris
Cast: Ruby Barker, Lily-Rose Aslandogdu, Jamie Michie, Miranda Nolan, and Andre Flynn
DoP: Ivan Bird
Music: Ibeyi and Nikolaj Torp Larsen
Country: United Kingdom
Running time: 82 minutes
How to Stop a Recurring Dream is be available on digital from 9th March.