Film Review: ‘In Your Dreams!’

A teenage parkour enthusiast is plagued by distracting waking dreams in an off-kilter Czech romance from Petr Oukropec.

'In Your Dreams!' Review: Czech Parkour
Courtesy of Negativ

Czech teen Laura (Barbora Stikarova) is a determined practitioner of parkour, the art of free-running around, over and up buildings, or other architecture. As “In Your Dreams!” is at pains to make clear from the outset, she’s unusual in that most of the discipline’s adherents are male — including local parkour hotshot Luky (Toman Rychtera), the object of a nascent crush on Laura’s part. But as Laura’s feelings for Luky intensify, her grip on reality fades, with a series of dreamlike visions seemingly starting to interact with reality. Following up on 2012’s “The Blue Tiger”, this warm sophomore directorial curiosity from veteran producer Petr Oukropec has its heart firmly in the right place, but its promising elements don’t finally coalesce into a film of much commercial potential, even in limited release.

“In Your Dreams!” opens with a mountain climbing trip, as Laura and her father scale a spectacular rocky outcrop; clearly, a head for heights runs in the family. In an efficient piece of storytelling, we see Laura lie about having to head home early to spend time with her mother, when really she wants to attend a parkour meet — communicating her life’s passion and status as a child of divorce in a couple of beats.

Back in Prague, we see that Laura is a little conflicted about showing her parkour skills in public, perhaps because she’s the only female practitioner around, or maybe simply because she’s not part of the gang socially. Her motivations throughout, in fact, are often opaque. She’s also increasingly subject to intense fantasies where her skills are deployed in fantastical locations: a lighthouse, a fairytale version of a multi-storey car park, a cliff-top.

Aspects of the narrative will be familiar to anyone who has seen a mainstream movie featuring competitive dance. Mention is made early on of an imminent informal competitive jam, which convention dictates will take place towards the climax of the story. Sure enough, and equally conventionally, an injury eventually means that someone — but who? — will be required to put aside their doubts and fears, for the show must of course go on.

The film does not follow as predictable a shape, however, when it comes to a largely unresolved subplot about Laura’s love life: The romantic destinies of superstar jock Luky and sensitive video artist Alex (Jachym Novotny) are happy to disregard the playbook of U.S. teen movies.

It’s at times hard to gauge how complicit the film is in the slightly dissociative atmosphere that pervades the action and obscures the characters’ emotional journeys. Looked at generously, one might say the film intends to be as much about the illogic of dreams as it is about parkour. Perhaps, more plausibly, it is the result of a less than sure grip on the personalities and story at hand.

Laura is something of a blank canvas throughout. The requirements of casting — on a small budget to boot — an actor credibly up to the role’s physical challenges will of course have resulted in a narrower field of candidates than usual, though Stikarova is not without a certain charm. The standard of parkour she achieves is, while impressive by layman’s standards, not up to the levels achieved by the boys in the pack, which is a shame since the narrative so would naturally seem to gravitate to a climax where she blows away the competition and outdoes all of her male equivalents.

A dreamy electronic score from Filip Misek makes the most of the balletic side of parkour, an art whose most prominent cinematic showcases (“District B13,” “Casino Royale,” “The Bourne Ultimatum”) have tended to emphasize its potential for masculine action-adventure stunts. It’s a welcome new emphasis in a discipline that, on film at least, has done much to distance its image from any possible charges of femininity.

An amiable but slight drama, the execution of “In Your Dreams!” ultimately falls below what the exciting premise might have achieved, quite possibly in part due to a limited budget. International commercial prospects are limited, but a loose U.S. remake can easily be imagined: With more consistent characterization and some really blistering choreography, the premise could easily be the basis for the next “Step Up”-style teen franchise.

Film Review: ‘In Your Dreams!’

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generations), Feb. 18, 2016. Running time: <strong>75 MIN.</strong> (Original title: "Ani ve snu!")

  • Production: (Czech Republic) A Negativ production in co-production with Arina, The Chouchkov Brothers. (International sales: Negativ, Prague.) Produced by Petr Oukropec, Pavel Strnad. Co-producers, Silvia Panakova, Erik Panak, Borislav Chouchkov, Viktor Chouchkov.
  • Crew: Directed by Petr Oukropec. Screenplay, Egon Tobias. Camera (color, widescreen), Tomas Sysel; editor, Jakub Hejna; music, Filip Misek; production designer, Henrich Boraros; costume designer, Linda Boraros; sound designer, Richard Muller; casting, Katerina Oujezdska.
  • With: Barbora Stikarova, Toman Rychter,Veronika Pouchova, Jachym Novotny, Adam Misik, Martina Kavanova, Klara Meliskova, Jan Vondracek, Ivan Martinka.