From the very first shot of Dandelion, it is clear that we’re in for a depressing journey. Teenager Mason Mullich (Vincent Kartheiser) is standing in a field of dandelions; tears pouring down his face, gun pointed in his mouth. Sad music plays overhead and with a loud tearful bang, Mason’s brief life has run its course.
Or so we think. It is soon revealed that Mason has not committed suicide: he just fantasizes about it whenever he lies down for a nap. When he’s not imagining his demise, he runs around in circles on fields until he collapses, and digs holes in the ground so he can rest in them. He’s not a normal kid, which leads us to wonder about his DNA. Over dinner, his mother Layla (Mare Winningham) behaves like a domestic Energizer bunny on Speed. Meanwhile, his father Luke (Arliss Howard), stressed from running for County Counsel, explodes at the table because nobody was listening to him. Check please.
Things go from bad to worse when Luke plows over a man with his car, late at night during a rainstorm. Mason comes to help his dad—thinking he is just having car trouble—and then discovers the body lying in the brushes. The cops suspect foul play and sound their sirens, wrongfully capturing Mason in the spotlight. Luke, being the beacon of parental wonder that he is, lets Mason take the fall for a crime he didn’t commit. He is shipped off to a juvenile correction center for 2 years, and doesn’t say a word about it. It’s not quite as alluring as death, but at least he’ll get away from the small town in Washington for a while.
When he returns, he gets involved with Danny (Taryn Manning), a free-spirit who seems to be drawn to guys without their heads screwed on straight. Within a few minutes, they are madly in love, humping in dandelion fields and whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears. For the first time ever, he is kind of happy. But since this is a horribly depressing movie without any purpose, further unnecessary tragedy hits, and you can forget about any kind of uplifting ending (heaven forbid!)
Dandelion is a manipulative, whiney film whose sole purpose is to make us want to kill ourselves. It cries, "Woe is me, life is bad, everything stinks, why me, boo hoo". You would think from watching these kinds of movies that anyone over the age of 13 living in a small town would clearly be better off dead. Dandelion is relentless with its negative attitude, and like that moping friend we’ve all had, you’ll want to drop them off at the nearest corner and speed away.
Writer/Director Mark Milgard uses the sledgehammer approach at driving his point home, and it's enough to cause a pulsating migraine. What exactly is the message that Dandelion wants to deliver? That life sucks and whenever things get better, rest assured they’ll always get worse again? A young, talented cast is wasted on a film of long silences and painfully obvious symbolism. It’s the type of film where people don’t speak much, and when they do, you’ll wish they would just shut up. And we get it—the recurring image of the dandelion blowing in the wind signifies doom and gloom. Dandelion is the feel-bad movie of the year, and further proof that subtlety is a forgotten art.