TROUW REVIEW ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘Childhood Dreams’ is an excellent Dutch family saga, fantastically acted

Screenwriter Marnie Blok and director Bram Schouw have worked long and profoundly on their Childhood Dreams and it shows in every detail. In nine episodes, the story is tells the story of the Wander family, which has to deal with a great grief at an early age that subsequently remains palpable for decades. Hard to say whether the melancholy that hangs over the family like a veil over the years is the result of that one event or whether it is the melancholy that simply comes with the passage of time. Behind all these larger and smaller personal dramas, the series provides a kaleidoscopic view of social developments in the Netherlands from 1968 to 2006.

The Wanders family forms a prism through which to look at the world outside. To the activist 1960s, squatters, emancipation and women’s rights, but also to international developments, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall. Daughter Carla becomes a lawyer and defends women who are disadvantaged in any way. Son Frans enters the Balkan war as a UN soldier. Yet personal relationships between them remain at the forefront.

Time jumps pose no obstacle
Guarding the balance between the small, human stories and the larger social context, is no small task. The series jumps in time with each episode – with some characters suddenly played by a different actor – and then, as a creator, you run the risk of emotionally alienating the viewer. But the series is so well written that those time jumps are no barrier to feeling connected to the characters.

But it is not just the screenplay that is good: there is fantastic acting across the board. The cast is too big to mention, but to give a small impression: Annet Malherbe, Mark Rietman, Tamar van den Dop, Maria Kraakman, Peter Paul Muller, Jacob Derwig, Gijs Naber, Roeland Fernhout but also younger actors like Hanna van Vliet and Yannick Jozefzoon in one series.

Who also – and this really lifts The Dream of Youth to a higher level – are allowed to act for real. No flat dialogues here, but emotional exchanges that are given weight thanks to the acting. Late in the series, son Max (Peter Paul Muller) confronts father Kick (Mark Rietman) with a secret Kick has kept hidden for decades and hardly a word falls. The pain of all those years, which they each carried on their own, is felt through a few mutual glances and inveterate, awkward gestures.

The roads that were not taken
“Demand the impossible!” wrote Fernhout’s character Hans decades earlier on the back of a huge photograph he gave Max as a gift. Together they were in Paris in 1968, when the world was still open to both of them. Then, as in any adult life, came the roads that were not taken. Like Max did nothing with the feelings he harboured for Hans.

Childhood Dreams is a family drama about those promises, about the possibilities life initially seems to offer, which then have to deal with reality. In which fractions of seconds are enough to send lives in a different direction forever. In which sons sometimes have the wisdom that fathers lack, in which daughters must forgive mothers and mothers must forgive daughters.

By Ronald Rovers June 16, 2023