Dream with the Fishes is a road movie, both literally and metaphorically. A chance meeting between two men, one dying physically, the other dying mentally begins a journey changes their lives in unpredictable ways.
The story begins with Terry, a distraught young man, getting ready to jump off a bridge. He is interrupted by a stranger who wants Terry’s watch, since he’s not going to be needing it anyway. The stranger, Nick, tricks Terry into not committing suicide. After that, the fates of the two men become intertwined.
Nick is dying of an unspecified illness. Rather than waste away in a hospital, he wants to enjoy his last weeks. Terry tags along, always staying in the background, while Nick tries to make the best of his short life, doing all the crazy things he’s always wanted to do. The two make their way to Nick’s home town where he tries to make peace with his past while continuing to indulge himself.
Dream with the Fishes is a study in contrasts between the two men and their inner worlds. Nick indulges in fantasies, knowing that he is indulging himself. Terry seems more levelheaded. He rarely participates in Nick’s antics. He claims to have no fantasies. He does, in fact, have them and when they are revealed, we see that he really is a disturbed individual. Nick may be impulsive and even mean at times, but he has a but he has a much firmer grasp on reality than Terry.
Despite its serious themes, Dream with the Fishes has a lighthearted tone; the nude bowling scene and the cop who accidentally gets high on Nick’s LSD come to mind. The movie’s greatest strength is its characters. Among the interesting people back home are Nick’s warmhearted, opinionated aunt, who is a stripper and an old friend who is plagued by bad luck. The strongest characters are Nick and Terry and the movie does its best storytelling by gradually revealing them and shattering our first impressions. Best of all, it allows us to feel hope.