In a small town where teachers sit in front of apathetic kids in the classroom and teenagers have nothing better to do than find household items that might get them high, "Daydream Nation" sneaks in and takes everything by storm. Caroline (Kat Dennings) is new in town and it's not that she loves to cause strife or turmoil, but she's smarter than her fellow classmates and she's looking to define herself just as any smart, lonely teenager would do. This is the year that everything happens.
With an industrial fire burning, a serial killer on the loose, and Caroline falling in love with her teacher Mr. A (Josh Lucas), the film sets up such a dark, mysterious, chilling atmosphere that you'll be drawn towards this town and these characters and then want to find a safe place to watch from.
Some of these characters will break your heart from the very beginning, Thurston (Reece Thompson) is the quintessential awkward teenager, alone and confused and might be falling in love, and his best friend is gone. His single mother (Andie MacDowell) is in constant fear of keeping her kids safe. The other characters should be able to handle themselves just fine. These are the best written characters I have ever seen in a high school film (and yes, I have seen "Election").
Mr. A is looking for motivation, Thurston is looking for love, and Caroline is just looking for something. This film takes those simple longings and puts them into something that looks and feels like a thriller. Originality is not to be feared. It should not be weird or off-putting; it should be celebrated. "Daydream Nation" is an edge-of-your-seat coming-of-age drama. These teenagers, plus a teacher or two, are just looking for love, acceptance, understanding and a purpose.
For the first time in a long time, I had no idea where a film was taking me. I had no idea what they were trying to tell me, and I had no idea what genre it was supposed to be. But the unrelenting atmosphere, the incredibly well written characters, and the smart dialogue make "Daydream Nation" something you'll want to experience. Another reviewer compared this to "Juno", I was thinking of comparing this to "Heathers", but these filmmakers have their fingers on the pulse of something entirely different. They might play with your heart strings, and your blood pressure, but by the end you will be put back together.
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