What Dreams May Come a film that has slipped under many a fantasy-lover’s radar. It follows one man’s journey through the afterlife to reunite his family and poses the age-old question; how far would you travel for true love? Robin Williams stars as Chris, a loving father and husband who not only loses his two children in a car accident, but then tragically meets his own untimely demise soon after. He lingers on earth, trying to communicate with his disconsolate wife, whose only comfort is to paint.
Eventually Chris realizes that his lingering presence is making it impossible for Annie move on and so he decides to move on himself. He finds himself in a fantasy dream-land where he is visited by Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.) a friend from his past, who reveals that they are in Chris’ own personal form of heaven. Chris then travels beyond the boundaries of his specific paradise and into another, where he finds his daughter who has taken on the physical form of an air hostess she once admired. It looks as if Chris has found eternal bliss until he discovers that Annie has committed suicide and has thus been sent to hell. Chris must then journey beyond the boundaries of paradise to rescue his soul-mate from an eternity of torment.
What Dreams May Come won an Oscar for its stunning visual effects and rightly so. Its colour-rich depiction of a fantasy-inspired afterlife is breathtaking and undeniably the main draw. The world presented in the film is one that isn’t restricted by the pesky laws of society, geography or even physics, things which often bog down and take the real imagination out of fantasy landscapes. The scene where the daughter’s diorama comes to life, with floating citizens and a city suspended in the air, is a real highlight.
However, whilst What Dreams May Come more than succeeds in terms of visuals, the deeply sentimental and often melancholic plot takes the punch out of the drama and hinders any of the action/adventure charm which truly makes fantasy films come to life. Of course, the decision of director Vincent Ward to play-up the sentimental aspects of the more scientific original novel was a conscious one and Robin Williams and Annabella Scirra are successfully heart-rending as soul-mates torn apart by circumstance.