Dreamin’ Wild review: “Musical biopic drifts when you’d expect it to sing”

How do you cope with belated success, 30 years on from shattered dreams? That’s the question posed by Bill Pohlad’s music bio Dreamin’ Wild. At its heart are two real-life brothers, Donnie and Joe Emerson, from Fruitland, Washington, who recorded an album when they were teens. It went nowhere, only for fans to rediscover the work three decades later. That’s the moment that Pohlad’s film starts, as well-meaning music executive Matt Sullivan (Chris Messina) tracks down Donnie (Casey Affleck) and his sibling Joe (Walton Goggins), who still works on the 1,600-acre farm run by their beloved father (Beau Bridges). 

Donnie has never given up his dreams of making music, still harbouring hopes with his musician wife Nancy (Zoey Deschanel) still harbours hopes of touring venues. When Matt arrives with talk of re-releasing the old album, it opens up old wounds for Donnie, which Pohlad gradually sprinkles through the film. But with a groundswell of internet fandom for ‘Dreamin’ Wild’, the album they rehearsed all those years ago in a specially built room on their father’s farm, his initial reluctance gives way when a first royalty check comes in. Before long there’s talk of a live performance at the record label’s anniversary show in Seattle. 

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