Nathan Morlando’s MEAN DREAMS offers up a pretty classic story of star-crossed young lovers. The film opens as farm boy Jonas is releasing a rattlesnake out into the woods around the same time that country girl Casey and her police officer daddy are moving into the place neighboring Jonas’s family’s farm. The two quickly meet and form a fast friendship with a first love on the horizon when it is revealed to us (and soon, Jonas), that Casey’s dad (an effectively threatening Bill Paxton) is not only abusing her, but is also on the wrong side of the law despite the badge he wears.
Jonas’s parents aren’t prizes themselves, so the two young people quickly accept they only have each other to rely on – and even then, Casey is fearful that Jonas has no idea the hornet’s nest he is poking at by confronting her father. However, the combination of Jonas being pure-of-heart, some bad timing and good intentions lead to Casey and Jonas facing a life and death struggle against her father.
MEAN DREAMS not only isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it revels in the trappings of its poor, farm country setting, story tropes, and the familiar character archetypes it puts forward. The film banks on the romantic dynamic between the two leads (Sophie Nelisse, and Josh Wiggins), as well as the villain role embodied by Paxton which is smart as all three do not disappoint. And for those already missing the cinematic force-of-nature that was Bill Paxton, this film offers about as appropriate a swan song performance as you could hope to see. By staying true to its tone, choosing simplicity and storytelling over any complex messaging, the film should appeal to audiences over a good portion of the country.