HOLLYWOOD REPORTER - June 11-13, 2004

SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS  -   Reviewed by Marilyn Moss
Airdate 9-11 p.m. Sunday, June 13 CBS

Bottom Line: A superb Aidan Quinn and Marcia Gay Harden flesh out some great Sam Shepard characters in this intelligent telefilm.

It's a good broadcasting moment when the small screen gets a made-for-television movie as intelligent as CBS' "See You in My Dreams." Far more sophisticated and complex than the title suggests, "Dreams" offers its cast some wonderful opportunities to dig into first-rate material and share it with a mass audience.

"Dreams" is taken from autobiographical stories in two of Sam Shepard's books: "Cruising Paradise" and "Motel Chronicles." Out of this merger we get a terrific set of characters and a realistic set of circumstances that have long-lasting effects even after the show is over.

Aidan Quinn gets a meaty role playing Joe, a World War II vet who adores his wife, Angeles (Marcia Gay Harden, in a wonderful turn), and his infant son. The family lives on and runs a sheep farm in New Mexico. But Joe doesn't really have a head for business, and as the years pass, he sinks lower and lower on the economic and emotional ladder. Angela puts up with as many years of his hard-luck life and attitude as she can and comes close to being attracted to another man (Stephen Jared) as well. But ultimately, she has to go her own way and leaves Joe near the end of the story.

But the saddest part of Joe's life is his eventual estrangement from his son, Ben (Will Estes), who, though once close to his father, leaves the family when he is still a teenager. He leaves because Joe, in effect, has driven a cold wedge between them. It seems that Joe just can't help but think he's as ineffectual as his own father was and therefore is no role model for Ben. As imagined as Joe's troubles are at the start, they ultimately destroy his relationship with his family. It is only years later that his son attempts a reconciliation, but by that time it might be too late.

"Dreams" is unusual television simply because most of its dramatic action is interior, getting inside its characters' emotional lives. By the time the story ends, we realize that we've spent the better part of ninety minutes situated inside these fascinating characters. Graeme Clifford's direction is on the money, staying taut and remaining focused on each character. But he has lots of help from H. Haden Yelin's finely tuned script, realizing without much trouble Shepard's down-and-out but ever-hopeful American characters - people who, like the landscape Shepard gives them, are unique and fully realized.