A young American studying in Paris in 1968 strikes up a friendship with a French brother and sister. Set against the background of the '68 Paris student riots.
Matthew (Michael Pitt), a young American student, hangs out at the famous film museum, the Cinematheque Francaise, and, during the demonstrations protesting the dismissal of the Cinematheque's Director, Henri Langlois, meets Isabelle (Eva Green), and her brother, Theo (Louis Garrel). While debating the merits of Hollywood directors like Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray, the three become good friends.
When their parents go away, Isabelle and Theo invite Matthew to move in with them, and at first the American is taken aback at the free and easy lifestyle he encounters, a lifestyle that moves more and more into the realm of the senses.
The Dreamers is scripted by Gilbert Adair from his own book, and it's nothing if not authentic in its recreation of that wild time when young people discovered sexual freedom, cinema and politics all at the same time.
Debates about the Vietnam War and Chairman Mao are followed by analyses of the films that impacted on this generation, and there are lots of film clips to remind us what those seminal films were – there's even a scene in which the trio dash through the Louvre just like the threesome in Jean-Luc Godard's Bande A Part.
In some ways, this is a return by Bertolucci to the erotic mood of Last Tango In Paris, but strangely enough – given that he himself was a young man in Paris at the time, he seems to be on less certain ground when he examines the strikes that convulsed France in the summer of 1968; the conclusion, especially, has a hollow ring, given what's gone before.