Dir: Peter Cattaneo. Aus-UK. 2005. 88mins.

A sentimental fable about imagination and wonder, Opal Dream should strike a nerve withkids who understand its fragile emotional terrain and how they can create a fantasyworld to improve on their everyday existence.

Following the misfire thatwas Lucky Break, Peter Cattaneo's new feature marks something of a comeback as The Full Monty director again has scopeto demonstrate his commercial instincts.

Although the production issoft and treacly, Cattaneo couches his ideas inthemes and images of empowerment and excitement that young audiences shouldfind inspirational and moving.

Prospects are probably bestin co-production territories Australia and the UK, although in the US - where FocusFeatures has distribution rights - it should also yield returns. But childrenover the age of 12 may find it too square and insufferable: this is one fortheir younger siblings.

Adapted from the novella byBen Rice, the movie unfolds in Australia's desert Outback,an evocative feverworld that Cattaneodoes not really visualise with that much imagination.

In a depressed mining townfilled with dreamers who fantasise about striking it rich, lives nine-year-old Kellyanne (Boyce) and her two invisible friends, Pobby and Dingan.

Ridiculed by her brother Ashmol (Byers) and her classmates and with her parents (Colosimo and McKenzie) unsure of how to cope with heralternate life, Kellyanne is alive only when she canmaintain her fantasies.

When tragedy strikes, Kellyanne goes slack, felled by a mysterious illness that threatensher life. Her brother, who had littleempathy for her plight, finally recognises the seriousness of her plight andundertakes a mission to save her.

Opal Dreamis most effective in its early passages, with the camera alert to Kellyanne and the frustration of loneliness and isolationthat young children often confront.

The source novella ran tojust about 100 pages, but even at under 90 minutes the movie adaptation feels overlongas the increasing emotional suffering becomes too much to sustain interest inthe storytelling.

The young, non-professionalchildren prove capable and funny.

Production companies
Academy Films

International sales
Becker Films International

Executive producers
Finola Dwyer
Ben Rice
Robert Jones
David Thompson

Lizie Gower
Emile Sherman

Peter Cattaneo
Ben Rice
Phill Traill
from Rice's novella

Robert Humphreys

Jim Clark

Production design
Elizabeth Mary Moore

Christian Henson
Dario Marianelli

Main cast
Vince Colosimo
Jacqueline McKenzie
Christian Byers
Sapphire Boyce
Peter Callan
Robert Menzies
Adam Morgan
Rusty Potter
Denise Roberts