Teen angst gets the CinemaScope treatment in Dandelion an American independent coming-of-age emo tale.
The first scene shows a young man in a field crying. Then he sticks a gun in his mouth and presumedly fires. We don't know if he really does fire because the scene is followed by a blackout and a flashback [or so it seems] to a group of young guys firing guns.
Mason Mullich (Vincent Kartheiser) is a sensitive and intelligent young man. Sort of quiet but in a hip way that makes him not too geeky. His parents are a really unstable couple who seem so mentally fragile that it seems they cannot handle any aspect of life including the raising of a son - who seems to have thus far not developed their personality traits.
Mason catches the eye of the new girl in town Danny (played by Hustle and Flow's Taryn Manning) and they quickly become friends. But it doesn't last long because one rainy night Dad hits and kills a homeless drunk man on the road. He tries to cover it up but his son sees the body and when the cops come he takes the blame and confesses that it was he who hit the man.
It is frustrating enough that director Mark Milgard and co-screenwriters R. D. Murphy and Robb Williamson would write this piece of contrivance into the film. But what is worse is that they up the ante on their hero by having his father - who is too weak to admit he was the one who killed the man - let his son take the fall.
So now we are dealing with something of myth-like proportions in bleak small town America.
Two years later Mason gets out of youth detention center and he starts up a relationship with Danny. All seems fine except that Danny is an emotional mess due to her mother's passive aggressive ways.
As the drama marches forward and the two young lovers wrestle with the cruel world around them the film has it's sight on only one place: How will it all end?
Basically, Mason is by far the most stable character in the whole film but the filmmakers find a way to bring even him down. The filmmakers lay down the tracks pretty clearly - with the aforementioned first scene, which may not be as bleak as it appears.
The best part of Dandelion is the cinematography by DP Tim Orr who also shot All The Real Girls and Raising Victor Vargas. The images capture the outdoor locals beautifully in CinemaScope and give the film a big canvas with which to play out it's emotions: [It occassionally has the look of Days of Heaven] The pacing is also good and slow infusing the film with a foreboding dark mood - set ironically in wide open spaces. The acting by the two leads is also much better than the material.
If you are up for this kind of tale there is no denying it has a certain punch-to-the-gut that some may like. Some may prefer a Fassbinder or a Bergman film instead.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 the transfer looks great. Colors are sharp, the light is particularly good as are all the outdoor locations. Even the darker interior scenes have as good a look as films with ten times the budget.
Audio is in Dolby Digital and sounds good. There are no booming noises here. It's mainly a dialogue driven film with quiet moments and an unremarkable soundtrack.
There are no extras.
Dandelion is a teen angst drama that is almost saved by the good acting of it's too leads. When they are not on screen together the film is a big painful to watch - but not because of the subject matter. Rather because of the cliche's in the script, the heavy-handed story and the overacting. The transfer - on the other hand - is darn near flawless.