A coming-of-age story about a young gay boy whose mother marries through the mail order bride system to an American to give them both a better life. Once in America, the boy grows up questioning himself and life until he finds his place among his peers.
Written and directed by Wes Hurley, this autobiographical film is made of two very distinct parts that are brought together to bring the entire life of Potato to the screen. These two parts feel like two very different movies in both styles and delivery. Thankfully, the first part is built like a sort of memoir as seen by a child and the second part is much more realistic. This mix of styles is a bit jarring, but each part works well on its own. Once put together, they do still feel very much like two different films forced together by the director. This leads to a film that feels a bit disconnected, but it still quite entertaining.
The lead of Potato is played by a few different actors, 2 of them in the Russia segment and 1 in the America segment. The two getting the most screentime are Hersch Powers as the Potato in Russia who learns about life and starts to question his sexuality (without fully knowing what it is at first) and Tyler Bocock as teenage/young adult Potato in America. Each of them gives good performances with Bocock having the most range in terms of his character’s arc and emotions. His work grounds the film in reality while the work of Powers gives a sort of whimsy to the first part of the film. Playing Potato’s mother in America is Marya Sea Kaminski who gives a touching performance with a few puzzling moments which were more than likely part of the script. Playing her American husband John, actor Dan Lauria gives a performance that is peculiar and even a bit frustrating at times, which is definitely part of how the character is written. His arc is one that seems to be working just as it needs to without any logic or proper evolution.
The film’s cinematography here is interesting in that all of it is done by Vincent Pierce, yet the styles for both parts of the film look quite different. There is a connective thread in the styles, but they feel different enough to make both parts stand out from each other. That being said, the work put in here makes each part of the film work visually with the second part, the one in America feeling much more realistic in part because of how it looks.
Potato Dreams of America is an interesting coming-of-age film with a very specific vibe to it and a feeling of having two completely distinct stories at play. The second part is definitely the one that works better here in terms of connecting with the audience and making it something they want to watch. However, there are a few story items that seem to come out of nowhere and create a dysfunction within the story. The acting is solid and the film looks great, it’s one that will find its audience and should become a favorite to some.
FilmOut San Diego Runs from September 9th to the 12th, 2021.