Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Forming an almost hypnotic image of the flow of life in a small rural town of clapboard houses and spacious skies, Mark Milgard's debut feature, Dandelion, is a dramatic and unpretentious exploration of existential awakening.

Mason Mullich's family leads a life of quiet desperation. His father, Luke, a grain-factory worker, tries to better his lot by running for county council, while his mother, Layla, holds the family together with heartbreaking determination. But Mason is somehow different—so stolid and unfazed—sensitive to deeper rhythms. As if transfixed by something beyond the normal plane of view, his placid face is perfectly at home in the film's wispy landscapes. When he meets Danny, the new girl in town, Mason's focus settles for a moment. Their connection is genuine—a Terabithia of sorts. But when an accident befalls the family and complications set in with Danny, a tragic series of events unfolds.

What makes Dandelion more than a straightforward coming-of-age story is the transcendentalist shading Milgard gives to Mason, who posseses an oddly affecting sort of metaphysical lucidity. Unlike the gritty authenticity of many teen dramas of late, Milgard's idiom evokes a bygone tradition of poetic realism in American film. Through its vivid imagery and outstanding performances, Dandelion not only transports you to a place, but plugs you into its pulse.

— John Nein

Screening Details

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