Dreamy Circus Fantasy?

Main Cast: Stephanie Leonidas, Jason Barry, Gina McKee, Dora Bryan

Director: Dave McKean

Plot Summary: A young girl, working in the family business (a circus), longs for a normal life. But the sudden collapse of her mother sends her into a dream/fantasy, partly fueled by her own guilt, where she must rescue the Queen of Light from the encroaching Darkness.

While the above summary is meant to give you an idea on what the movie is about, it really fails to do this offering justice. Now I must admit that I’m not overly fond of “artsy” films. I don’t do opera and, for the most part, when I look at modern art I don’t understand it unless it’s explained to me. But this movie is just this side of comprehensible to be entertaining.

Helena (Leonidas) is the young girl. She is a juggler and an artist, her work covering the walls of her room. These pieces take on a whole new meaning when her mother (McKee) collapses and is taken to the hospital. Real life, which she had been longing for, comes crashing in. On the night before her mother’s operation Helena either has a very vivid dream or falls magically into another land. That isn’t really made clear. Regardless, she finds herself among her own drawings, in the Land of Light. The Queen has been taken ill and the Darkness is slowly taking the land over. Yeah, I could follow this analogy – it’s pretty darn obvious. Anyway, she must search for a lost trinket that will bring the Queen back from her sleep.

She journeys through any number of mystical locations. All are somewhat abstract, but beautifully done, constructs of her own mind. She meets up with a fellow named Valentine (Barry), a juggler and “important man”. Everyone here apparently wear masks so Helena’s bare face is unsettling (yes, I get this analogy too: maybe I’m not all that blind!). The other inhabitants are equally fantastic.

I think I did enjoy this movie, although I warn you it’s more drama than anything. There are no fight scenes, per se, and it’s not a comedy. Nor is it sci-fi, really. It lies outside these categories.

Stephanie Leonidas is the main character and does most of the work, and does it superbly. I could empathize with her plight, and wish her well. The other actors do solid work, and the pacing is a bit slow and dreamy, but of course that’s the whole point of the thing. The ending is a bit abrupt, but then again so are most dreams.

I can recommend this if you don’t mind a semi-artsy film, dark but not over the top (although the one line “don’t let them see you are afraid” is very chilling), and it actually makes you use your imagination. On the whole not a bad thing, I would say. 3 stars.

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