“Sometimes when you win, you lose.”
What Dreams May Come is a lofty movie that tackles big topics like heaven, suicide, the loss of a child, and the idea of soulmates. When it was released in 1998, Robin Williams was coming off of his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting and Cuba Gooding Jr. was a well-known name due to his Oscar-winning performance in Jerry Maguire. The movie seemed to have all the elements: big names, incredible visuals, heart-wrenching drama; and it was all based on a best selling novel. It seemed like this movie deserved at least one more chance…. Here is my 2017 review of the late-90’s drama (with spoilers):
Almost from the beginning, the movie seemed more meaningful because of Robin Williams’ suicide in August of 2014. I didn’t personally shed a tear the first time I saw the film, however, this time, I was sure I would cry a river.
It begins as a story about a very special, very connected marriage that fully embraces the idea of soulmates. And, being very aware of the premise of the film, I knew what was coming and I had the tissues ready. I knew Annie and Chris would suffer the loss of their children, I knew Annie would struggle in an institution for a bit, and I knew that before the first third of the movie was over… Chris would die.
In many movies, the story would focus on the living and their response to the dead however in What Dreams May Come, the story is about the dead and their response to the living. Annie becomes secondary as Chris arrives in heaven and begins to explore all the intense scenery around him. He is guided by his former mentor (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and a flight attendant he met once.
At this point, the movie is still actually quite good. Chris is in a beautiful place with interesting people and trying to learn to let go of his life; if the movie had continued in that direction, I might have enjoyed it more, but instead, things start to get odd. (Still not odd enough to turn off the movie but odd enough to make me wonder why I thought it was a good idea to re-watch the film.)
While Chris is reuniting with old friends, family, and even pets; Annie is slipping into a deep depression and it isn’t long before she commits suicide. (This is exactly where I should have turned the movie off and walked away.) Once Chris learns of Annie’s death, he begins a journey into hell to save her.
The entire hell part of the movie was what did it for me – I was already beginning to feel disconnected from the story line, but from that point on, I was done. The whole journey meant nothing and my eyes were still dry when she was found. I wanted to find their love story beautiful again but at that point it seemed toxic and not believable. I couldn’t even be happy when they magically turned up in heaven, finally together again for eternity…. Before deciding to reincarnate so they could find each other again. (WTF?!! YOU LITERALLY JUST WENT TO HELL TO BE TOGETHER AND YOU WANT TO SEPARATE AGAIN?!)
So, yeah… don’t watch this one again, leave it in the past. The visuals are beautiful and overall the story is a lovely concept. I can see how the plot would make for a great novel, but it doesn’t work as a movie in my opinion. The film felt disjointed at times and, after about the halfway mark, I was just watching for the sake of finishing.
If this review didn’t phase you in the least and you’re still interested in checking it out for yourself, it streaming right now on the Starz channel, which you can add for a week-long free trial to your Amazon Channels: What Dreams May Come
Still want more? After finishing the movie, come back and check out the alternate ending that didn’t make the cut. I honestly think this ending might have been more satisfying.