Lest you think the film to be a quirky, or even funny, experience, you would be advised to think twice.
Indeed, despite the film’s initially humorous concept, what we have here is a beautifully judged story of one mother’s grief, in the face of the devastation of losing her son. We never know how Dylan died, a master stroke that allows us to focus on grief in its purest of forms, devoid of context that may make us judge the characters. We know only that he has left his mother alone to pick up the pieces.
As she quietly begins to tidy her son’s room, she comes across his small stash of grass, hidden in a bedside drawer, and, in a moment of inspiration, decides to roll herself a joint and blaze up. It’s a gesture of reconnection with her child, in more ways than one, as she allows the grass to overwhelm her, relax her and, in a moment of surreal beauty, allow her son to return one last time, so that they can set straight all that was left unsaid, revisit the past and, most importantly, give her the opportunity to say goodbye.
DYLAN’S ROOM has a simplicity to its structure that makes it somewhat hypnotic, aided by some beautiful cinematography from Jean-Paul Berthoin (watch as dust particles dance in sunbeams, like a spectral entity) and, it has to be said, some stellar work in the film’s production design, creating a perfect example of a young man’s room (not quite ready to get rid of the toys, not quite old enough to realise how pretentious Bob Dylan’s TARANTULA is).
There isn’t a false note here, particularly in the performances. The film is a two-hander, with Joanna Scanlan stunning, in the kind of part she gets all too rarely.
Often called upon to play the comedic aspects of a character, here Scanlan presents an achingly real portrait of a brave woman just trying to get on with things, despite being utterly numb with grief. The more observant of viewers will already be aware that Scanlan is one of the best character actors of her generation, but anybody still out in the cold about that, would be wise to view her work here immediately. She is immaculate.
Ricky Nixon as Dylan, meanwhile, offers perfect support to Scanlan’s grief, bringing a lightness to his portrayal, that lifts the film into something far more optimistic than one might expect. Never playing up the spiritual, or spectral aspects of the reasons for his appearance, we are given a real sense of the life that has been wasted by Dylan’s death, and how much love and joy he gave, and received, from his Mother. His performance is delicate and gentle, a ray of light, like the many that beam into his now vacant room. It is this light that sticks in the memory, and provides DYLAN’S ROOM with all the context and metaphor that a film of its type will ever need, whether it is dancing through the feathers of a dream catcher, or slowly fading into black. It may be gone, but the memory remains.