Comedy Dream Scenario

Wake in Fright: A TIFF Review of ‘Dream Scenario’

September 11, 2023Ben MK

We all have dreams. But at the end of the day, no matter how weird the dream might be, we can always rest assured that it's just fantasy — and that it will have absolutely no bearing on reality. But what if that wasn't the case — what if what happened in our dreams actually had a very definitive impact on our lives in the real world? That's the situation facing the main character in writer-director Kristoffer Borgli's surreal horror comedy Dream Scenario, in which a man finds his life turned upside down after he suddenly starts appearing in the dreams of random people around the world.

An ordinary person, Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) is a man that most people would describe as boring. A tenured evolutionary biology professor at Osler University, a husband to wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson), and a father to two daughters (Lily Bird and Jessica Clement), Paul has never known what it's like to be popular or to be the center of attention. However, after he mysteriously starts appearing in the dreams of thousands of complete strangers, all that abruptly changes. At first, Paul relishes his newfound celebrity status, as everyone from his students to the head of a new-age marketing firm (Michael Cera) clamor for a piece of him. But when Paul's dream appearances start to take a darker turn and the tide of public opinion begins to turn with it, the middle-aged family man soon learns that there's no such thing as innocent until proven guilty. Will Paul be able to convince the world that he's not the man everyone thinks he is? Or will he discover that being famous isn't always what it's cracked up to be?

A surrealist noir comedy that also has something to say about cancel culture and the influencer lifestyle, what follows is as darkly hilarious as it is deeply disturbing. That said, it's still Cage's performance as the film's befuddled and bumbling protagonist that makes Dream Scenario as entertaining as it is. Suffice to say, the result is one of the most unique and imaginative movies of the year — so, in other words, don't sleep on this one.

Dream Scenario screens under the Platform programme at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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