Today I will explain a fantasy, romance film from 1998, titled What Dreams May Come.
IMDb Rating 6.9
During his vacation in Switzerland, Doctor Chris Nielsen meets artist Annie Collins when their boats accidentally bump into each other. They quickly hit off thanks to their similar sense of humor, and later they have a picnic where Annie shares his sandwiches with Chris. Love is found that day and the couple gets married not much later, starting a wonderful life together and having two kids: Ian and Marie.
The children have become teenagers by the time tragedy strikes the family for the first time: both teens die when the van that was taking them to school crashes. Four years later, Chris is working at the hospital when he gets a call from Annie, who is having a meltdown because some of the art pieces she acquired for a gallery opening haven’t arrived.
She feels really bad because today is their Double D-Anniversary and she may ruin it if she has to stay at work. Because for Chris paintings are the most interesting thing in the world, he has pictures of Annie’s art in his drawers, so he quickly takes them out to give her ideas of how to use them to replace the missing ones, promising to drop the real ones at the gallery after work is over.
In the evening, the rain causes a car crash in a tunnel. Chris stops his car just in time and doesn’t get caught in it, but being a doctor for him is a responsibility he must respect, so he gets off his vehicle and approaches the victims to help. Unfortunately, another oncoming car isn’t as lucky and crashes as well, killing Chris in the process. In only a few seconds, Chris finds himself in a floaty form above the world while a mysterious voice asks him questions to see if he’s aware of what’s going on.
He sees his body being taken to the hospital and dying there, then he moves to his house, where the dog barks at him because animals do see him. The mysterious voice takes form then, but it’s still blurry, so Chris can’t tell who it is. The voice tries to convince Chris that he’s dead, but he continues floating around, watching Annie go through his wake and looking at the pictures of his kids. This makes him have a flashback of the time their old dalmatian dog Katie was sick and they had to put her down, which made Marie very angry because she couldn’t understand it was mercy.
He also remembers the time he and Ian went running into the forest under the rain for fun, and Chris took the chance to tell his son they would be transferring him to another school. Chris’ ghost takes form at the church where they are holding his funeral and he tries to touch Annie, who can’t see him but can feel a weird sensation around her face. Then, Chris appears at his home again to look at the painting Annie had made for their Double D-Anniversary, which depicts the special place where they met and were planning to retire.
He finds Annie starting a diary because her therapist asked her to so she could cope, but it’s not helping her at all. Chris takes the chance to communicate with her by guiding her hand with the pen and making her write “this is Chris, I still exist”, but it only gives Annie an anxiety attack because it can’t possibly be real. When later Annie goes to the cemetery to visit his grave, Chris tries to touch her shoulders to comfort her, but instead, it makes her scream because it makes her feel like she’s going crazy by sensing things that aren’t really there. Seeing as his presence is only causing his wife more pain, Chris decides to allow his soul to finally move on. He wakes up in his personal heaven, which is shaped like Annie’s painting of their special place. Katie is there too, looking young and healthy. The mysterious voice shows up as well and this time it has a proper form: it’s Albert Lewis, Chris’ old mentor who died at sixty-three but here he looks young again. Albert teaches Chris that this world is controlled by his mind, so he can make things move or change by just wishing them to do so. After fooling around with a bird, Chris manages to walk on water, which takes him a failed try and Albert reminds him that his body is just an extension of his mind before he manages to pull it off. The two men cross a lake and arrive at the house Annie painted as their dream home. Over coffee, Albert continues to teach Chris how to use his full mind to transform this place into whatever he wants and shows him a neat little trick.
With just his hand, Albert makes a hole in the wall and makes a world look real instead of painted appear. In the real world, Annie is making a new painting for Chris’ memory, and the tree she draws appears in Chris’ heaven. A young Annie also appears among the flowers, so Chris tries to fly to her, but he just falls. Choosing to run instead, Chris comes closer, but Annie’s gone by the time he gets to the tree. It’s then he realizes he never saw this tree before so he doesn’t understand how it could appear here if Annie is finishing the painting after he died, and Albert realizes Chris and Annie must have a very strong connection because they’re soulmates. The couple is trying to reach each other even in death, so when Annie’s depression makes her ruin the painting because it won’t bring her husband back, the tree in heaven also gets ruined.
Chris keeps seeing Annie around his heaven, but she always disappears before he can reach her. At the shore, Chris finds Marie’s plush tiger and remembers the time she got sick. That day, Chris stayed home with her instead of going to work, and he taught her to play chess. Chris realizes that if he’s found Katie then he should be able to see his children in heaven too, but Albert says he’ll only see them when he means it. Afterward, Chris takes a nap and wakes up to find Albert is gone. He had work to do guiding other souls, so he’s sent Leona to make Chris company for now. Leona takes Chris to a city filled with souls enjoying themselves. Meanwhile, in the real world, Annie continues to live with overwhelming guilt because she thinks Chris doing the favor of taking the paintings to her gallery was what put him at the site of the accident. It’s the same guilt she felt back when her children died, thinking that if she had been driving she could’ve saved them.
Back to Chris, after watching some souls choose to reincarnate, he, Leona, and Katie go on a boat ride. Chris admits that because his children died years ago, he’s more worried about his wife, so Leona asks him to share a memory of his daughter. As he tells her about all the times he and Marie played chess together, Chris remembers the diorama his daughter had in her room and begins noticing this world looks like it. Leona can tell Chris is onto something so she confesses this isn’t how she looked when she was alive, she chose this appearance because her dad had complimented a flight attendant that looked like this and she wanted to grow up to be like her.
Chris finally realizes this is Marie’s soul, and the two of them reunite with a hug. In the meantime, Annie is having trouble moving on. She thinks her therapist will send her to a clinic soon because he’s worried that she’ll hurt herself like she did in the past, so she writes a letter in her diary saying goodbye to Chris. Back in heaven, Chris is back in his painted house and is visited by Albert again, who brings terrible news: Annie is dead.
Chris cries for her but thinks at least her suffering is over and they’ll reunite soon; however, Albert informs him this isn’t possible. Because Annie ended things herself instead of dying naturally, she’ll be going to hell, which makes Chris furious and causes a storm in his heaven. What happened with the tree reminds Chris of his soulmate connection to Annie and decides to go to hell to rescue her, since their bond should allow him to find her. After lots of arguing, Albert accepts that Chris’ refusal to give up deserves a chance and takes him to see the Tracker, who explains how things will work. Finding Annie is possible, but she won’t recognize Chris when she sees him, so he must decide if the trip is worth it just to see her. Chris accepts to try anyway, so the trio gets on a boat to cross the seas of hell. There’s a wild storm shaking the boat and the waves, but the real danger comes from the lost souls in the water that turn the boat over and make everyone fall. While trying not to drown, Chris has another flashback of him and Annie, this time arguing about Ian and his future, because Chris kept put pressuring the boy into doing well at school and it was taking a toll on Ian. Right after that one, another memory begins of Ian in the forest under the rain complaining about the transfer because he didn’t want to lose his friends. Eventually, the waves take the trio to the shore of the gateway to hell, a huge desert filled with shipwrecks.
They begin walking through the area but they are having trouble sensing Annie because Chris keeps thinking of Ian. The boy had tried to explain that he wasn’t like his father, so school was hard for him and he went to bed scared. Chris had told him he believed in him and if he had to go through hell, he would want nobody else other than his son by his side. During the kids’ funeral, Chris gave a speech that imagined what a man Ian would’ve become if he’d had the chance to grow up: brave, respectful, loyal. And now in hell, Chris sees Albert about to fight a bunch of lost souls, so he stops him as he calls him Ian. Father and son properly reunite with a hug while Chris quotes himself, still thinking this is the only person he would want by his side while going through hell. The Tracker interrupts their moment to point out that Ian is a distraction for Chris, who needs to think about Annie if he wants to find her. Chris refuses to leave his son behind but Ian admits he’s taken the form of Albert because he’s the only guy Chris has ever listened to, so he wants him to listen to him now: Chris has to go alone and never stop thinking about Annie, he should particularly concentrate on the way he brought her back after the kids died. The Tracker takes the elevator to hell together with Chris, who begins thinking about all the things Ian mentioned.
After the kids died, Annie tried to hurt herself and ended up in a mental hospital. During her stay, she asked Chris for a divorce, since she thought they were coping too differently to stay together. The elevator eventually takes them to a private deck where the floor is filled with faces calling out for their loved ones. Chris almost gets distracted by an old man, thinking it’s his father, but he gets back on track when he finds Annie’s face among the others. Remembering a lovely afternoon they spent together in the park, he runs to her only to fall through a hole on the floor and into a lake. Thinking about Annie again allows him to swim out and find the place she’s at: a dark, nightmare version of their dream house. The Tracker explains this is an illusion her guilt inflicts on herself and, after revealing he’s the real Albert who also took on a new appearance, he reminds Chris that he has no defense against Annie, so he only has three minutes with her before he loses his mind. Chris enters the house and as it had been predicted, Annie doesn’t recognize him, so he pretends to be a neighbor that admires her art. Annie is worried because her paintings are missing, so Chris tries to distract her by telling her about his dead wife and how they came up with the Double D-Anniversary. Years ago, Chris visited Annie at the mental hospital and told her he would be leaving because his presence wasn’t helping and seeing her like this was killing him.
So that day was a double-day because they needed to make a decision about divorce. Chris had realized that he was part of the problem, not because he reminded her of what happened, but because he could never join her in the dark place she was in. Finally finding comfort in his new attitude instead of being forced to heal, Annie accepts to go back to her old life, and the couple reconciles. Current Annie thinks it’s a touching story, but the woman still died, so there’s no hope. Chris retaliates by explaining not giving up was only his own way to hide from the world and that his wife never was a coward.
Seeing as she wants to see her family again, Chris makes Annie close her eyes and remember the day of her wedding, so he shows up in the memory too and tells him he’s real. When Annie opens her eyes, she sees Chris and freaks out, thinking it’s some sort of trick that haunts her. Chris doesn’t have much time left so he tells her a few last words before leaving: he apologizes for all the things he’ll never give her and all the times he failed her, he also thanks her for everything she’s done for him. Afterward, Chris meets with Albert to tell him to go back alone and tell his children that he loves them but he won’t leave their mother alone. Then Chris re-enters the house and finds Annie to tell her she shouldn’t feel guilty because he forgives her and he’ll stay an eternity in hell if that’s what it takes for her to regain her sanity.
As she begins to look healthier, Annie recovers her memories and Chris absorbs all her nightmares instead. Annie begins ascending to heaven but she doesn’t want to leave Chris behind, so she calls out his name and reminds him not to give up. After going through the lake again and seeing his life flash in front of his eyes, Chris wakes up back in his own heaven and reunites with Annie, Albert, Katie, and the kids. The family spends some happy moments together, but then Chris talks to Annie in private to ask her if she would like to be reborn together. Anne hesitates, but Chris explains the kids do want them to go, and he’s sure they’ll find each other again because they’re soulmates. The couple kisses right before something extraordinary happens in the real world. A little boy’s toy boat accidentally bumps against the one belonging to a little girl, and this girl decides to share her sandwiches with him.