I desperately wanted to love “I’ll See You in My Dreams” after all of the wonderful reviews. And while I still liked it, I felt like it missed something outside of Blythe Danner’s exquisite, award-worthy performance. It lacked a certain development in the relationship between Carol and Bill, which, entailed, made me feel like the story was rushed. And can we talk about the awfully sad dog dying scene in the beginning?
Carol (Danner) has been a widow for 20 years and lives alone in her house with her senior dog. The two of them do a lot of things together, including eating lunch on the patio, while her loving dog sits next to her on the patio couch. However, life gets even lonelier when Carol finds her dog in pain, forcing her to put her beloved dog down.
Sad as can be, Carol’s life is awakened when begins a friendship with her pool maintenance man, Lloyd (played by Martin Starr). The two of them discuss life together, including music, as Carol use to be songstress. She even turns to Lloyd to help her find a karaoke bar so she can do some singing.
Also happening in her life is her friendships with the ladies, Georgina (a terrific June Squibb), Sally (the wonderful Rhea Perlman) and Rona (played strongly by Mary Kay Place). These ladies live in a retirement community and constantly push Carol to leave her house to join them. They talk about the available men and how Carol should start dating again. Luckily, she does end up meeting Bill (a superb Sam Elliott). The two of them meet in the grocery store and in the retirement community. This leads up to Bill finding the courage to ask Carol out on the date.
Together, the two of them begin a loving, but steady relationship. They are able to share stories with each other, which helps Carol to enjoy life again. She is happy because of Bill, and it’s what she needs during her setbacks. To help, Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott have an amazing and natural chemistry that helps keep the film afloat. The only set back is Bill starts talking about marriage soon into their relationship, and it feels rushed to me. I felt like I needed to see them together more, to figure out their quirks, etc. Maybe at their age, that stuff doesn’t matter, and what the hell do they have to lose if they got married.
A third part of the film involves Carol reconnecting with her daughter Katherine (played by Malin Akerman). This part of the film also felt misplaced. I felt like it could have happened sooner or possibly not at all. It was like all of a sudden here, Carol receives a phone call that her daughter is flying in to visit. I think it distracted from the relationship building that I wanted to see from Carol and Bill.
Now, even though an independent film, this is Brett Haley’s first time directing a more mainstream film, with well known actors and actresses. And there are some solid qualities to his approach in direction that give the film a beautiful, California feel. Top that off with the often beautiful screenplay from Brett Haley and Marc Basch. At times, you feel like you could be watching a scene from the 2015 edition of “The Golden Girls,” just more dramatic than witty. Plus, it’s carried a phenomenal ensemble, anchored by the sensational Blythe Danner.
“I’ll See You in My Dreams” is definitely a mature film featuring one of Blythe Danner’s best performances in a long time. She will sadly be pushed to the bottom of the Oscar nominees list, due to the competition. If only the film would have explored Carol and Bill more and ignored the mother-daughter part, I would have given this a higher mark. Oh, and the dog dying scene was torture. Rated PG-13.