Dreamchild (1985)

Article 4509 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-19-2014
Directed by Gavin Millar
Featuring Coral Browne, Ian Holm, Peter Gallagher
Country: UK
What it is: Speculative biography

In 1932, Mrs. Alice Hargreaves (who, as a child, was the real-life inspiration for the Alice books) is invited to Columbia University in America for a centenary celebration of Lewis Carroll’s birth. While there, she comes to terms with her memories and association with the famous author.

For those who know a little bit more about Rev. Charles Dodgson’s life than the fact that, as Lewis Carroll, he wrote some of the most beloved children’s books of all time, there are some very unsettling facts to reckon with, and there is the possibility that he may have been a repressed pedophile. The uneasiness of this fact pervades this movie, and in many ways, it gives the movie a complexity and a poignancy that it might not otherwise have. The movie moves back and forth through three modes. The first tells the story of Mrs. Hargreave’s trip to the United States in 1932. The second involves flashbacks to her encounters and relationship with Charles Dodgson. The third involves fantasy encounters with various characters from “Alice in Wonderland”; these sequences involve creations by Jim Henson, and I suspect the fact that these creations look somewhat twisted and disturbing is intentional. The movie is anchored by stunning performances from Carol Browne (as the 80-year old Mrs. Hargreaves) and Ian Holm (as the very repressed Charles Dodgson), and one can feel the intensity of their emotions which they can never explicitly express. The movie is definitely not for everyone, but for those willing to give it a chance, it is complex, multi-layered, powerful and poignantly moving.

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