Dandelion is the 2005 drama from writer/director Mark Milgard.
The film is rated R- however if young kids are allowed to watch and read Romeo & Juliet, they certainly should be able to view this film.
Actually, for anyone who saw this film and thought it was garbage, then I feel they should also think of Shakespeare’s work as junk too. This movie isn’t about an exciting plot or tons of action, it’s simply meant to be poetry, and from the beginning scene we see that most of the film’s backbone lies in tragedy.
Mason is a dreamer- (and with that beautiful landscape, who could blame him?)- who particularly seems to dream a lot about death. He has a fantasy numerous times of killing himself with a gun in the mouth, while he also digs a hole six feet under and lays in it- perhaps only to see how it feels.
One day while laying on the sidewalk, he’s awoken from his dream by Danny, a young, attractive girl who just moved into town. Danny is a typical young girl who likes doing drugs, making out and searching for love, although she’s frequently unhinged by her mother’s subtle verbal abuse.
Soon, we learn that Mason really does hold no significance to his own life, when he takes the fall for an accidental hit-and-run which was actually done by his father, while also taking the fall for Danny’s apparent suicide, even when his friend who was there lies to the police, saying Mason essentially caused her death.
If anything, this film is about self-sacrifice. Mason takes the blame for crimes he didn’t commit. But by the movie’s conclusion, we are made to believe he has a change of heart. In between shots, we see him tell a cop that he didn’t tell law enforcement the entire truth, and then we see Mason waiting for a train, for which he eventually runs to catch, and we are made to believe he got on.
The mystery of this film lies within the scene sequence, and what actually happened in the end. Perhaps Mason caught the train back into town, and that is when he decided to kill himself; therefore he wasn’t dreaming at all. Or perhaps he did kill himself in the very beginning of the film, and the rest was a dream in which he was meant to find himself in the stages of afterlife, with the help of Danny (which would also explain the almost-surreal view of the Idaho land.) Or, maybe Mason learned that no matter who he “saves” by taking the blame himself, everyone, himself included, still gets hurt and is no better off; therefore he rides the train out of town never looking back, instead of committing suicide and taking the easy way out. Then, maybe him shooting himself, digging a hole and trying to drown in the lake were all real attempts he tried after Danny died, until finally running away.
Maybe this is a long-shot, but I also felt the director did include certain seemingly random scenes for symbolic effect, such as when Mason steals Danny’s heart necklace, and when the father complains that the printing company left the “H” out of his name. Essentially Mason is an empty person, almost nihilistic in his ways, until he meets Danny, and they “steal” each other’s hearts. His father, however, doesn’t realize till the end that he hasn’t been giving any heart to his son or wife (hence, the missing “H.”)
I mention Romeo & Juliet because in the play, Romeo thinks Juliet is dead, and therefore kills himself. Perhaps Mason was wise enough to realize that Danny was enough a part of him to live through him, even after her death. Because he’s not scared to die, he knows that the afterlife can’t be that bad, and therefore he’s willing to keep living. Danny’s death scene is not very explanatory, and all we know is she was a stressed out teen who was being forced to move away from her one true love (and she was thinking about all of this while on drugs.) Like Juliet, her death wish doesn’t make sense and is almost frivolous. But instead of playing out the typical tragedy of having Mason kill himself too, he decides to live instead (or at least that’s the way I viewed this film.)
The cast was excellent, with Vincent Kartheiser (a terribly underrated actor) playing Mason and Taryn Manning playing Danny. Manning’s performance surprised me the most, as most of her films portray her as a whore/druggie of sorts, while Mare Winningham as Mason’s mother delivered a powerful performance, especially in the scene where she breaks all the stuff in the house.
As for the title, perhaps “dandelion” is a metaphor for holding on no matter what, or who, gets “blown away.”
Overall, this is as artsy as art films get- and sometimes you have to read between the lines to find the point being made… or perhaps come to terms with the idea that some films can be moving without necessarily having meaning.