Life has its ups and downs, but for the Nielsen family, it seems that the scale is unevenly weighted. With the death of the two Nielsen children in the very beginning of the film, and the death of the father Chris Nielsen shortly thereafter, life on earth seems unbelievably cruel. For those who have lost a loved one, the raw emotion expressed in the film can be difficult to watch. But the enduring hope and optimism by the end makes it all worthwhile.
Robin Williams leads the cast as Chris, the father who goes to Heaven after dying in a car crash. The place he has created (everyone has their own version of Heaven in the film) is truly incredible and is all based off the paintings of his wife, Annie. The landscapes are unrivaled, and as Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times says, it’s “like nothing you’ve ever seen before”. For this, ‘What Dreams May Come’ won numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Visual Effects (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120889/awards?ref_=tt_awd). The film leaves you wondering: what would your version of Heaven look like?
But such an incredible place cannot come without suffering. As Chris begins to adjust to Heaven with his guide Albert, he learns that his wife committed suicide due to her grief and now resides in Hell. Determined that he can bring Annie back, Chris decides to leave Heaven in order to save her.
Some aspects of the movie are a little bit confusing and not everyone will agree with them. For instance, Albert tells Chris that his wife is in Hell because she does not understand that she is dead. This may not make logical or moral sense to some viewers, and it certainly doesn’t to Chris. But this does not stop him from trying to save Annie. Though Albert tells Chris he just doesn’t understand, Chris replies, “It’s not about understanding—it’s about not giving up!”
This attitude of unyielding hope is a great comfort for those dealing with struggles in their lives. Though Chris was faced with a seemingly impossible task, his attitude shows that the fight isn’t over until you decide it is. He inspires viewers to challenge their problems, whether they be large or small, and dare to believe that they can beat the odds. In the end, the familial love shown is very powerful and is sure to touch audiences. It reminds us that despite how hard things may seem, there is always something bright on the horizon.