Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Opal Dream

Illustration for article titled Opal Dream

It isn't necessarily an egregious breach of aesthetic restraint for a movie to come right out and tell the audience what it's about, but in the case of Opal Dream, the underlined theme is just another example of a pervasive literal-mindedness. Based on Ben Rice's acclaimed novel Pobby And Dingan, Opal Dream is narrated by Christian Byers, an 11-year-old boy whose younger sister Sapphire Boyce refuses to play with other children, because she's devoted all her time to her imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan. Her dad, Vince Colosimo, gets the bright idea to take Boyce's friends with him to his Australian outback opal mine, so Boyce can go to a party and meet some real kids. But when there's an explosion at the mine, Boyce thinks Pobby and Dingan are dead, and she becomes physically ill.

Opal Dream was directed by The Full Monty helmer Peter Cattaneo, and there are some similarities between the two movies' exploration of pipe dreams in small towns. While Boyce gets sicker and sicker, her father—already an outsider in his insular mining community—deals with the accusation that he's a "ratter," because he wandered onto someone else's claim, presumably to steal his opal. But claims aren't that clearly marked, just as rules of inclusion in an outback community aren't that easy to follow.

Had Cattaneo made Opal Dream more elliptical and allusive, he might've gotten somewhere with this idea that our collective senses of purpose and belonging are based on illusions. But the filmmaking here is flat, straight, and thoroughly lacking in poetry, and the script—co-written by Cattaneo, Rice, and Phil Traill—tells instead of showing. The movie opens with Byers explaining all about opal mining, and how people who want that jewel have to dig deep, but "not too deep," or else the mine will collapse. Later, when pie-in-the-sky dreamer Colosimo complains to his wife about Pobby and Dingan, she stands up for their daughter, saying, "They're real to her, just like opal's real to you." All that's missing from these two scenes and a half-dozen more like it is a lit-up sign blinking "The Point" over and over.