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Sweet Dreams Film Review: Predictably Bright

The protagonists of the film Sweet Dreams sit on a bench wearing blue Sweet Dreams t-shirts

Lije Sarki’s Sweet Dreams is a sweet and compassionate addiction drama that outshines its predictability with genuine heart.

Addiction is one of the hardest things a human being can battle with. In a world where alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy foods are constantly advertised to us, it’s hard to fight one’s urge to consume these things that may make us feel good temporarily. A life of moderation sounds good on paper, but that’s easier said than done when you have the system of mass consumption lurking over you. Your vices, regardless of their legality or consequence, can grow to control every moment of your life, and it’s because of this that we need not just support systems but also a physical bond to keep us on top of our game. Lije Sarki’s Sweet Dreams is a comedy-drama that explores addiction, family, and how the physicality of sports can bring significant mental and emotional progress.

Sweet Dreams follows Morris (Johnny Knoxville, of Jackass Forever), a music video director who, after a traumatic night of drinking that leaves him and his daughter in danger, is taken to Sweet Dreams, a sober living home with a group of fellow addicts. After the group discovers that their home will soon be up for auction, Morris reluctantly agrees to represent the home and coach a softball team to win a hefty cash prize. Along the way, the team grows closer and builds a new chapter of their lives fuelled by strength and camaraderie. 

Watching Sweet Dreams as both a fan of the Jackass series and the Bad Friends podcast makes this an emotional watch. After all, It’s hard not to think about the turbulent lives of many of the film’s cast. Bobby Lee has a history of addiction that has been the subject of much of his comedy and more serious discussions. Johnny Knoxville has witnessed firsthand how drugs and alcohol can impact his closest friends, and other members of the film’s ensemble cast have also had a history of drug use that led to them travelling on the road to sobriety.  Because of this, Sweet Dreams undeniably has a very compassionate touch that is primarily reflected in what its cast chooses to do with its material. We have an ensemble cast here of performers who know first-hand what addiction and the challenges of sobriety look like. This experienced perspective carries the film in many of its emotional moments.

Morris is a character who is well aware of their problem but finds themselves in a position they cannot escape from. After all, how can you fight back against alcoholism when it can so easily take over your very body in just a few minutes? When Sweet Dreams opens, it does so with our lead character passed out on a park bench with a bloody nose. We don’t know how they got there, but it’s clear the journey to this point wasn’t pretty. However, while it opens with our lead character in such a troubled state, the film quickly views them with an empathetic lens. Morris is a father to a daughter in a family that wants the best for him, even if that means having to be away from him briefly on his journey to recovery. Lije Sarki places a lot of the film’s heart on not just Morris and his struggles but also the rest of its cast of misfit characters.

Johnny Knoxville in the film Sweet Dreams
Sweet Dreams (Paramount Movies)

The Sweet Dreams household is a chaotic bunch. From pranks to silly arguments, it’s clear that this group, despite their good hearts, still has much work to do on their journey through sobriety. Lije Sarki directs much of the film’s first half in an almost documentary-like fashion. Allowing the camera to simply breathe as our cast brings themselves into their characters through monologues and meetings allows their bonds to grow deeper and for the film’s emotional moments to gain more resonance. It’s clear that while the film plays in line with many addiction dramas like it, Sarki’s eye for the lived-in experience of his cast is why it can have something valuable to say. It may run the risk of preaching to the choir, but at the end of the day, the stories and lessons taught here feel essential to understanding the struggles of addiction and the journey to sobriety. 

A lot of how Sweet Dreams tackles both addiction and the conventions of the sports drama are familiar. Narrative and emotional beats here won’t get points for unpredictability. However, every frame’s pure unleashing of the soul places it above the rest. The humour can sometimes struggle to keep up with the heartfelt drama, but the pure heart makes this film a sweeping success. You’ve seen it before, but you’ll enjoy it again.

Get it on Apple TV

Sweet Dreams will be released in US theaters on April 12, 2024 and will be available to watch and own globally on digital from April 16.

Sweet Dreams: Trailer (Paramount Movies)
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