I really had no idea what to expect when I purchased a used copy on eBay of Backstreet Dreams. The cover image was not appealing, especially seeing some smart-alek guy holding a gun and the smirk look on Brooke Shields face.
It's a good thing I did not draw any conclusions as a result, since the character Brooke Shields portrays is boring and dull. From my viewing it did not appear she put much effort into the role of Stevie. On the other hand, Jason O'Malley wrote, produced and starred in Backstreet Dreams. His acting as the character of Dean was very convincing, both as the father to Shane and the New York gangster enforcer. At first I thought I was watching a 1990s version of The Lords of Flatbush.
Shane is played by twin actors and is a cute little boy about 4 years of age with blonde hair. We see him banging his head and screaming for hours on end. The mother known as Lucy, had a limited role, played by Sherilynn Fenn. Lucy had no interest in Shane and would call the bar that Dean worked from to get him home and help with Shane.
Burt Young played Luca the head gangster. All the guys seemed to know that Dean's son had problems and that would be the reason for Lucy's calls. Dean was not very happy about the calls though. There were a few stories within Backstreet Dreams. One was for control of the streets, the guys were fighting for position within their gangs. Dean and his best buddy had some great scenes while Dean was trying to leave the business and go legit. They leaned on each other for moral support and Dean went inside the burning building to rescue his friend, but had to leave alone.
Earlier in Backstreet Dreams Lucy and Dean take Shane to a clinic for help. There they are told that there was nothing they could do for Dean and to wait a few years. There was a student observing who was working on research, this is how the viewer is introduced to Stevie, aka Brooke Shields. Supposedly she is wealthy, educated and as Lucy is walking out of the office Stevie offers to help her with Shane.
Every day Stevie shows up and observes Shane, documenting in her notebook and trying to bring him out of his shell. Lucy is not really participating in this program and tells Stevie not to come back. Well it turned out that Lucy had a date with one of the other gangsters while Dean was working and never did inform him of Stevie's work with Shane.
That same night Dean comes home early to find Shane alone in his bed and noise coming from the bedroom. He kicks out Lucy, who never shows up again or has concern for Shane. Then Dean notices bruises on Shane and you can just feel the pain he is going through. He decides to devote his time to raising Shane.
When Stevie showed up at the apartment Dean was at the door with a bat, not realizing who she was, so he ran out into the street to chase her down and learn of her work with Shane. This is the beginning of their working together with Shane.
Most of the time you just see Stevie sitting in the corner watching Shane and Dean, but one moment when Shane hugged Dean was nice for them all to share. They all formed a bond and seemed like an instant family. Stevie arrived dressed for Manhattan instead of the seedy neighborhood they were in. The few times that Dean went out to work Stevie watched Shane.
There was an elderly man living in the same building, Angelo, played by Anthony Fraciosca. He is like a father figure to Dean and gives him advice on leaving the streets behind for a better life.
There is some mild violence in Backstreet Dreams when they do the street scenes, some drug use, sex and profanity. Also a few scenes were upsetting to watch, especially when one of the gangsters walked into the apartment when Angelo was watching Shane and working in the bathroom. Shane ended up getting away from the man but was in the middle of a street. It was a good thing they quickly left that scene because I was visibly shaken while viewing this.
I did not think Backstreet Dreams was a romance drama, but that is how I would classify it versus an action drama. I really was drawn into the character of Dean and felt that Jason O'Malley did a fantastic job covering the range of emotions within the role. I never really knew him before this movie, but quickly found him a pleasure to watch. He had compassion and an edge about him that made the viewer like his character.
I could tell that there were two kids playing the role of Shane. I also noticed that Teri Shields had a smal part as the biker and many relatives of Jason O'Malley played neighborhood children. I felt there were some gaps regarding Stevie and what drove her to help Shane in the first place. It was never really clear, nor was the type of therapy explained in depth.
As the parent to two children on the autism spectrum I was curious to know what led Jason O'Malley to write Backstreet Dreams and what personal involvement with autism he may have had or still has. I knew from the brief description of the movie that the child had autism, this is why I purchased it in the first place.
It was nice to see the father raise the child and make changes and sacrifices to make sure his child was well taken care of. I did not see any chemistry between the two characters and much preferred the relationship between Dean and his best friend, his neighbor and son over Stevie. I felt the neighbor had good influence over Dean with making decisions.
Autism was not really explained, but all those who came in contact with Dean knew about Shane and cared about him. It was obvious this was a low budget film, but the story came out with a happy ending that was not over the top.
Previously published on Epinions
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