Good performances by its two leads are the most consistent thing about “In Your Dreams,” a date-rape telepic that can’t make up its mind whether it’s an issue drama or plain entertainment, and is capped by an ending that’s far too easy. This reunion of the producer and scripter of last year’s impressive youth item “Loved Up” makes a fine showcase for young British thesps Thandie Newton and Oliver Milburn but misses the brass ring as a whole.
Ol Parker’s script starts well, with medical student Milburn set up by his sister on a date with Newton, who’s had a longtime crush on him. As the two feel their way with each other, their thoughts are wittily intercut with what they actually say, setting up the split structure that develops later.
Newton decides over dinner that he’s not really sack material and settles for friendship. But as the evening progresses, her vacillation and failure to send out clear signals leave the door open to the boyishly charming Milburn, whose only goal is to score. Starting with inserts from the morning after, as she initiates rape charges, pic shows the same scenes from their two perspectives, finally going into split-screen. After the jury’s decision, a coda shows what really happened.
Aside from the shifts in tone from well-observed youth dramedy to issue-dominated dialogue, the most unsettling aspect of the script is its one-sidedness against Newton’s character, which takes the punch out of Parker’s otherwise cleverly constructed story. The cards just aren’t stacked evenly enough to make the “Rashomon” approach work.
The bright-eyed Newton, who’s pure charisma, is terrific throughout, and Milburn looks far more at ease here than in the loopy British-Canuck drama “Sweet Angel Mine.” Photography varies from the flatly lit to the pristine, and other tech credits are standard.