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Scott McMullon on What Dreams May Come:
There are times when honesty really is the best policy, and in all honesty this is not a piece I was looking forward to writing. Robin Williams helped to define my childhood and my early adulthood and became something of a role model to me. So now as I write this, I can’t help but hate that I am here doing it, that someone with such warmth and love about him, is now no longer in the world. It is something of a bitter pill to swallow, and I found myself looking to one particular film for solace. That film was the 1998 movie, What Dreams May Come.
‘Chris, “here” is big enough for everyone to have their own private universe’ – Cuba Gooding Jr
The story of this film was one that I loved when I first watched it many years ago, however, after the sad death of Robin Williams it became something of a chilling parallel. Williams played the role of Chris Nielson, a bereaved parent and doctor who died in a road accident near the film’s opening. Chris would then ascend return in spirit form, and then begins an ascent to heaven. Here the idea of paradise is one where everyone can create their own private world to find happiness and peace. However, Chris finds himself unable to move on as his soulmate – his grieving wife on earth – is suffering without him.
Chris’ wife Abby (played by the incandescent Annabella Sciorra) falls into a deep depression and becomes violently unstable. What is more the connection with her late husband finds her unable to move on. This descent would ultimately result in her own death by suicide which sees her sent not to heaven to rejoin Chris, but to a darker place which is analogous to biblical hell. What follows is Chris quite literally going to hell and back to save the woman he loves from an eternity of darkness and sadness in a journey that shows the viewer the depth of the human spirit and the power of love between two souls.
‘Annie, I’m here babe, I still exist’ – Robin Williams
More than any of Williams’ previous roles I found his treatment in this film to be something awe inspiring to behold. His journey into heaven is handled with sensitivity and grace that the actor handled remarkably. He was even able to insert a few unexpected laughs into the mix which added a whole new layer of humanity to his character. Indeed the connection he had with co-star Sciorra was palpable to me and made my heart almost ache. In 1998 I was only just 12 and had no concept of what love really meant, but for the first time watching this film I felt moved by its scope.
Indeed the scope of the film was impressive and the visuals on offer were some of the most imaginative and astounding that I had ever seen at the time. The idea of Chris’ vision of heaven was crafted by his surviving wife’s paintings and were filled with colour and life and beauty. Similarly other areas of heaven which we get to see later on are crafted beautifully, inspired by the paintings of the great Italian masters. This beauty was perfectly counterbalanced with the darkness of the underworld and almost put me in mind of Dante’s Inferno Chris prepares a journey to find his soul mate in the depths of the pit.
‘Dear Diary, I am writing in your bullshit pages because my shrink is crazier then I am. He thinks you’re therapy. He figures if two babies can hammer me into a Psycho ward, what will I do with this ? He is so stupid. He’s so stupid that he thinks he pulled me through the breakdown when it was Christy. Always. Only Chris. I was looking through his postcards. Paintings were his obsession. He used art as another way to love me, to help me. To keep us always together.’ – Annabella Sciorra
Looking back on What Dreams May Come after the death of Robin Williams I think that this film has taken on a new and special meaning. Some may disagree with me, but I believe that this film has become something of a lesson in the amazing power and strength of the human spirit, even in the face of darkness and our own human frailty. In the depths of human suffering there is an idea that there is something more to hope for, and a place where we can find peace and love. Ultimately watching it again made me feel like it was a lesson in having faith and strength even in the darkest moments. If nothing else the is the best lesson I think we can learn from the late actor.
While Williams himself wrestled with depression, a conflict which would ultimately take his life, we always tried hard to live his life as a kind and wonderful human being. This film, perhaps more than any other I have seen, shows the whole spectrum of William’s acting ability and a real insight into the man behind the role. This is a warm and kind-hearted person who could balance humour and humanity better than most other A-list actors of this or any other age.
‘Where is God in all of this?‘ – Robin Williams
‘Oh, He’s up there. Somewhere… shouting down that He loves us. Wondering why we can’t hear Him. You think?’ – Cuba Gooding Jr
Here at Vada we have been able to write a great deal about our favourite films and quotes from the late great Robin Williams. This more than anything else is evidence of how one great and wonderful man was able to touch the hearts of so many people from all over the world.
Remembering when the news of his death I remember feeling like I had lost a member of the family, even though I had never met him, and that a piece of our childhood had been lost. Having been a fan of his films, along with many of the writers here at Vada we only hope that time will heal the wounds of those left behind, in particular his family and close friends who are currently coming to terms with this sad and senseless loss of someone who we were not ready to lose.
That said, What Dreams May Come has reminded me of the power of hope and faith, and that no matter our own personal, religious or spiritual beliefs he will find peace.
‘What some folks call impossible, is just stuff they haven’t seen before.’ – Robin Williams