‘Dream Scenario’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Where Did Paul and His Family End Up?


First things first, Nicolas Cage is absolutely brilliant in the satire comedy horror Dream Scenario. He outstandingly embodies the behavioral quirks of the protagonist, and you are bound to be in awe of the performance. Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli puts to the test the craze behind going viral and the downside of becoming a media sensation. Borgli’s ambitious project, at times, fails to explore the most important questions, but the innovative approach to addressing popular culture is credible.

Paul Matthews, a professor of evolutionary biology, suffers from a sense of dissatisfaction at work. He was just another man with a forgettable face and a regular job. He seemed quite concerned about his image when his younger daughter, Sophie, described her dream, in which he was a mere spectator. Presumably, Paul has watched his life go by, and he suddenly felt compelled to make drastic decisions because he was afraid of becoming irrelevant.

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Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Paul found himself in a precarious position when, all of a sudden, thousands of people started to dream about him. He heard a few of his students whisper in class, and the receptionist at a restaurant exclaimed that she experienced a sense of deja vu upon seeing him. Paul did not pay much attention to strangers recognizing him at first, but eventually, it was hard to ignore. Before the madness began, Paul confronted a fellow academician he went to grad school with years ago, Sheila. He mentally prepared to bring up the paper she was about to publish. Swarm intelligence had always been his topic of interest, and he was quite disturbed after finding out Sheila’s research was based on the same. She explained that her interests had widened, and moreover, she had done all the hard work to come up with a paper while he only had the idea in his head. Paul was defensive at that point; he tried to prove himself as a researcher and stressed the fact that he had a book coming and was waiting to find the right publisher. For the last thirty years, he had been planning the book, and he believed Sheila was doing him wrong by publishing his line of work. He wanted to be credited, but Sheila refused to do so. The conversation left Paul in an awkward situation. He was afraid that he had displayed insecurity, and he was embarrassed by his conduct. He desperately needed to be recognized for his work, but unfortunately, he had not made any significant contribution.

That evening, Paul and his wife went to watch a play, and he ran into his ex-lover. Paul was a part of her dreams, and she was surprised to meet him out of the blue. He realized that, in her dreams, he was once again a mere passerby. Janet was apprehensive when Claire suggested that they grab a coffee the following morning, but Paul reassured her that it would only be a cordial meeting. Claire was contributing to an online magazine, and her work mostly dealt with psychology. Paul was quite surprised to know that Claire, too, was getting her work published, albeit online. Paul assumed that Claire still had feelings for him, but as it turned out, she was interested in writing an article about the dream she had of Paul, and she wanted his consent to publish it. The meeting did not go the way he had pictured it, and Claire left in a hurry after Paul gave her the green light for the article.

Soon after, Paul received a call from Richard, a renowned scholar with whom he had previously attended school. Richard considered Paul to be a bore, and he did not expect people at his party to talk about him. Paul fell unconscious when Richard told him about the similar dreams strangers were having of him. It did not make sense to Paul, and he did not know how to react to it. His social media had blown up after Claire published her article. More and more people confessed that they had seen Paul in their dreams. In almost every dream, he was an observer who remained unaffected by his surroundings. Soon, in Dream Scenario, news channels contacted Paul, and he had to make a critical decision about how he wanted to go about his newfound fame.

When did Paul’s life go downhill?

Some described the dream phenomenon as a Mandela effect, while others believed it defined collective consciousness. All Paul could think about was using the sudden attention to his advantage. His decision to appear on television could have repercussions, and Janet wanted him to think about all the possible outcomes. Paul was quite certain that he wanted to be a part of the discussion, and his television appearance instantly made him all the more famous. People wanted to know more about the random guy they saw in their dreams, and the situation started to slip out of control. A mentally unstable man broke into his house and threatened to kill Paul. Luckily, it did not end in a bloodbath, but Paul could already sense the negative effect of becoming a viral sensation. 

It was evident that Paul enjoyed the attention he was receiving after spending all his life in the shadows. He secured his house with the latest technology and went on with his business as usual. His daughters started to appreciate him and wanted to be seen with him in front of their classmates. More students attended his classes, and they described their vivid dreams involving Paul. It was only his passiveness in the dreams that Paul resented; perhaps he wished that he would have played a more decisive role to add more to his character.

Paul eventually considered meeting a talent agency that promised to make sure his dream presence was better utilized. Paul’s goal had always been to publish his book, and he repeatedly emphasized that he wanted to be known as a professor who made a significant contribution to his field of expertise. While the people at the agency wanted to use him for advertising, Paul did not wish to lose his academic credentials by participating in the consumerist rat race. The only reason he agreed to appear on television was because he was hopeful he would find a publisher for his book, but sadly, he had no control over perception, and people only remembered him for being the strange guy from their dreams. Things started to go all wrong the minute Paul began negotiating with the agency. He was ready to consider advertising in the hopes that one day, he would get to publish his research and attend an Obama party.

Paul decided to meet Molly after the meeting. She worked at the agency and had the wildest sexual dreams involving Paul. Paul was a little surprised by the age difference, but the sexual tension between them was palpable. Molly requested that Paul fulfill her fantasy, and he ended up at her apartment. But the reality was unlike any of her dreams. Paul was not the confident man Molly fantasized about; he was awkward and nervous. She tried to make it work, but Paul was too self-conscious and overwhelmed. He left the room, and he spent the entire night hating himself and wishing things had been different. From that night on, there was a shift in Paul’s personality in his dreams. He was no longer the bystander but the perpetrator. He was a killer, a rapist, a torturer, and everything else that Paul never thought in his wildest dreams to be accused of. Paul was facing immense backlash all of a sudden, and he desperately wanted his old life back. The sudden shift in his personality can be the result of him agreeing to contribute to the consumerist culture; it could also be the rage he experienced in reality that, in a way, affected his image in the subconscious. He had always wanted to be a decisive character in others’ dreams, and now that he finally was, he hated every minute of it.

Where did Paul and his family end up?

Students refused to attend Paul’s classes after they had vivid traumatic dreams. The dean did not know how to react to the situation and considered dropping his course for the semester. Paul struggled to grasp the cancel culture that he was all of a sudden subjected to. He could not fathom why the students who once lined up to interact with him refused to look him in the eyes. He was still the same person who could not control the way he behaved in others’ dreams. He was expected to publicly apologize, but he was not ready to do so. His wife and his daughters were also subjected to harassment and humiliation. Sheila’s success made it even harder for him to accept his reality, and his dream of having his book published seemed unattainable at this point. In the video Paul published, he was seen crying and blaming everyone for his misery. He believed he was the victim, but no one really cared to understand what he was going through. He was denied entry into diners, he was asked not to attend school events, and he was requested to stay home and take a break from his job. Paul found his entire life crumbling down, and his family was disappointed in his inability to handle the situation he had landed them in.

During Dream Scenario‘s ending, Paul attempts to forcefully enter the auditorium to watch his daughter’s performance. He got into a heated argument with a faculty member and inadvertently hurt her. The woman, who had perhaps also had nightmares about Paul, frantically screams for help and blames Paul for hurting her. Paul tried to prove his innocence, but no one in the room cared about his explanation. The entire situation sums up cancel culture, where the person subjected to it is not allowed to explain their side of the story. As a common practice, it ends up becoming a hasty social media trial where one’s reputation is tarnished within seconds, and no one cares to find out the entire truth. In several cases, the victim seeks legal help, and by the time they are proven innocent by the court, the world has already labeled them as perpetrators.

Years have passed since the incident, and people have forgotten about Paul. Dream Scenario does not explain how the dreams began in the first place, and there is no clear explanation for how they come to an end. Paul chose to hide away from public attention, but his life was no longer the same. He and Janet had separated, and he planned on moving into an apartment. In the quest for fame, he lost the most valuable thing in his life—his family. Paul never managed to publish his research, but he was still relevant in the European fringe cult scene, and he published a book about his wild journey. He wanted the book to be named “Dream Scenario,” but it ended up being titled “I Am Your Nightmare.” His agent believed it was better if he cashed on to the monstrous image he had set for himself.

After the entire Paul episode, a company named Norio came up with a device that made dream travel easier, and it was used mostly for advertisement, where the dream influencers interrupted dreams to advertise products. CEO of the company, Brian Berg, credited Paul for the invention of the device, and we eventually found out that Paul uses the product. Paul could have used the device to accomplish anything he wanted, but he decided to be with Janet instead. The separation pained him, and he found respite in their dreams. A place where he could still hold her in his arms and dance silently with her, away from the burdens of everyday life. By the time he realized how important his family was to him, it was too late.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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