Dreamin’ Wild is a soulful, slow-burn indie based on a true story. If you’re part of the cult fan base that sparked the resurrection of a long-lost album by singer-songwriter Donnie Emerson and his drummer brother Joe, then you probably know at least some of their story and are, indeed, part of it. If you’re more like me, and had no clue, there’s plenty to like about this film, though you’ve got to ride out a few dull moments (or what others might describe as quiet intensity) on the way to a sweet and satisfying conclusion.
The screenplay is adapted from a 2012 New York Times article, “A Time Capsule Set to Song” by Steven Kurutz that told the story of the Emerson brothers who, as teens in the 1970s, self-produced an album that flopped– until it was discovered in a junk shop 30 years later and praised as a music masterpiece. Suddenly, the brothers were in demand, with a second chance at living out a teenage dream. But first, there were family fences to mend. Feelings of guilt to overcome. Personal and professional demons to contend with. Music and memories to resurface.
The film is driven by strong performances from Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Noah Jupe as older and younger Donnie; Walton Goggins and Jack Dylan Grazer as older and younger Joe; Beau Bridges as Don Sr.; and Zooey Deschanel as Donnie’s wife Nancy (though the talented Ms. Deschanel and other females in the film remain largely on the periphery.)
So what were the brothers doing in the 30 years between making the album and getting discovered? Basically just going about their daily lives in rural Washington state, with Donnie still passionate about trying to make music, and Joe content to live and work on the family farm.
Dreamin’ Wild was written and directed by Bill Pohlad (Love & Mercy) and includes original music from Donnie Emerson. The soundtrack is available via Light in the Attic, along with a re-release of the original 1979 Dreamin’ Wild album and the collection Still Dreamin’ Wild: The Lost Recordings 1979-81. Good stuff.
Only in theaters (for now).