Potato Dreams of America (2021)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Wes Hurley
Run Time
1 hour and 37 minutes
Not Rated

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

…  your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

Joel 2:28b
Potato (rt) & his family in the USSR are fascinated by the blurry channel showing old American movies. (c) Dark Star Pictures

Writer/director Wes Hurley’s autobiographical dark comedy is about a young boy growing up during the last days of the USSR. It is both entertaining and supportive of the gay community—and instructive for all who have attained an open mind after struggling with the homophobia educed by a literal reading of Scriptures.

The title comes from the nick name of young Vasily (Hersh Powers) who lives in Vladivostok with his mother Lena (Sera Barbieri) and his grandmother. After Lena divorces from her abusive husband in 1985, the family struggles to survive. She is a low-paid doctor who sees much injustice at the prison where she works but is threatened lest she disclose anything. When Lena picks up a boyfriend with a color TV set, the boy is able to watch American movies on a rogue channel late at night. This feeds his dream of becoming a filmmaker in America–not exactly what Joel meant when he wrote of those dreaming of a better day..

Potato, influenced by his family’s Christian religion, acquires an imaginary friend, none other than Jesus Christ (Jonathan Bennett), who looks like Sallman’s painting after visiting a salon and obtaining a bad hair-dye job. It is while the two of them sit watching a movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme fight in a loin cloth that the boy feels his first sexual arousal. “Jesus” takes no notice of this, but at school, the boy is bullied. This section of the film is shot in a comic style that quickly changes in the next act.

Lena and son fly to America when she accepts an offer of marriage over the Internet from John (Dan Laurita), a right-wing spouter of hateful values, including homophobia. We then follow the teen Potato (now played by Tyler Bocock) and his mother (Marya Sea Kaminski) as they try to live with the tyrant. Lena has discovered that she is John’s second mail order bride, that he had sent his first wife back to Russia when she displeased him. Potato discovers that in Seattle there is a gay enclave where he can be free to be himself. How he emerges from his shell and is able to fulfill his filmmaking dream is as funny as it is encouraging—and it involves a revelation from John that would be regarded as unbelievable and artificial, except that this film is based on a true story. (Actually, it is based on a short version called Little Potato that Hurley first made.)

Although I find a short segment of promiscuous sex disturbing, I still think the film is worth seeing, though probably not acceptable to most religious groups for viewing and discussion. Potato…joins a growing number of films that explore the LGBTQIA+ experiences, both supporting the growing support and informing the rest of us. These films are needed because right-wing homophobes across the country are succeeding in passing anti-gay laws in their futile campaign to halt progress.

This film can be watched on Tubi or Prime Video.

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