In Ed Morris’s British set family drama, the already fragile bond between two half-sisters, Yakira (Ruby Barker) and Kelly (Lily-Rose Aslandogdu), is tested further when their parents, Paul (Jamie Michie) and Michelle (Miranda Nolan), announce an imminent split-custody separation. For Yakira, the elder sister, it means moving to the other end of the country with their father. In an attempt to reconnect with her younger sibling, she kidnaps her and takes to the road to visit her mother’s grave.
Following a brief introductory scene with Kelly in peril, the image is distorted by the visual flourish of the film’s title. The movie possesses an ethereal aesthetic that piques our curiosity. The title sequence is intercut with Yakira racing home, and we emerge into the stark contrast of a drama that leans towards the British social realist tradition.
How to Stop a Recurring Dream has an ambitious spirit as it adds another layer to its plot of a road movie. These tonal shifts are ambitious, and to balance the three is a challenge that overwhelms the filmmaker. They lend the story a series of interesting beats, but unlike the harmonic melody of a trio sonata or string trio, Morris cannot entirely unite them in rhythm.
The recurring surreal segments open up what is an otherwise a grounded story, infusing a dreamlike structure of layers of consciousness. It’s an effective creative touch, teasing us with a possible descent into the surreal. While the two Yakira’s, one in reality, one in a parallel space is undeveloped, it raises questions about dream versus reality, what’s real and what’s not.
A hindrance to the plot developing is the split between the adults and the adolescents. The road becomes an escape from the adult world, and it would have benefited the film to commit more fully to Yakira and Kelly as the heart of the story. It’s a relationship that requires longer than the film’s current 82-minute cut, and stifles the themes and ideas of separation and loss from being expressed. How to Stop a Recurring Dream has a creative ambition, but fails to slow down and hone in on the themes and ideas that would make the travails of the family resonate with us beyond an instinctive sympathy.
How to Stop a Recurring Dream is available on Digital Streaming Platforms