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Review: Potato Dreams of America (2021)

Potato Dreams of America Review


A gay boy is coming of age in a devastated Soviet Union with his mother and soon gets the opportunity to go to America when the mother becomes a mail-order bride. An autobiographical film written and directed by Wes Hurley, with a subtle comedic style that becomes highly enjoyable throughout its short runtime. We are living in unprecedented times, with LGBTQ+ cinema at the top of its game, and Potato Dreams of America adds a significant amount of stylistic fresh approaches to an otherwise already clichéd storyline.

Potato Dreams of America Review
Lea DeLaria and Carter Coonrod in POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA – credit Vincent Pierce-min

This is a film that is undeniably funny, and Hurley manages to beautifully direct his life story with a caricatured setting of former URSS, adapting the old sitcom scenario that shows how a young boy envisions his native country. The first act of Potato Dreams of America brings us close to Potato’s life in his poor household, with his mother constantly being mistreated by the men that she dated, and struggling to put food on the table. Both Potato and his mother have also been fascinated by American culture, trying to keep up with every opportunity they get in catching up with the latest movies of the 80s. In a way, Potato Dreams of America portrays this particular part in a very special way, like the settings and characters are somehow comically enhanced by the young boy’s memories, camouflaging the deep dangers he and his family were facing.

The childish-like treatment of these settings and characters allow Potato Dreams of America to become something fresh that stands out in telling a common coming of age story. When the trip to America takes place, the film changes its tone, setting up a new stage of filming, more cautious, plain and peaceful while reinforcing the new difficulties of settling on a foreign, different country. This satirical understanding told in an optimistic tone, turns this particular endearing film in something not to miss. Wes Hurley never loses sight of his artistic side while recounting some of his life events, and never takes the short path to become melodramatic. The inspirational side of the story becomes more powerful because it takes the hardships of coming out in a deeply discriminatory country and turns it into a motivational “moving on” approach of an otherwise traumatic autobiography. The fact that Hurley is sure of who he is and what he has achieved throughout his personal journey of self knowledge, makes Potato Dreams of America an extraordinary fable that will touch the many young boys who are affraid of coming out.

Potato Dreams of America Review
Lea DeLaria in POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA – credit Vincent Pierce-min

The performances are all together amusing, especially young Hersh Powers and Lea DeLaria, who is particularly hilarious as Potato’s grandmother. Even if the film is somehow too short and does not include the latest years of this director’s incredible journey to adulthood, Potato Dreams of America will surely conquer a large audience when it debuts because it has Hurley’s heart poured in every frame and brings a freshness by transforming what would be a difficult process in someone’s life into a joyful and inspiring event. For this brave and smile-filled comedy, Potato Dreams of America will serve as a guide to many young boys scared of coming out due to a homophic environment or fear of social repercussions, bringing them more hope that there is always someone there who understands them and wants them to know they are not alone in the world.

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Title: Potato Dreams of America

Original Title: Potato Dreams of America

Director: Wes Hurley

Cast: Jonathan Bennett, Lauren Tewes, Lea DeLaria, Dan Lauria, Sophia Mitri Schloss, Hersh Powers.

Duration: 95 min.

Trailer | Potato Dreams of America