Analysis of Requiem for a dream

Summary The movie follows the interconnected lives of Harry, Sara, Marion, and Tyrone as they struggle with drug addiction, isolation, and trauma. While Harry and Tyrone try to make money to fuel their addiction by pawning Sara's TVs and participating in risky drug deals, Sara becomes increasingly obsessed with being on television and experiences terrifying hallucinations. Marion spirals into a drug-induced haze and becomes entangled in a disturbing sexual encounter. The characters' lives converge in a harrowing conclusion with Sara in a catatonic state in a psyche ward, Harry hospitalized after a terrifying hallucination, and Tyrone in jail. Despite the bleakness of the situation, Sara has a vivid and joyous hallucination where she wins a game show and is reunited with Harry.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot of the screenplay is disjointed and lacks a clear central conflict. The characters' arcs are underdeveloped and their motivations are not clear. There are too many subplots and the focus on drug addiction is overwhelming and at times gratuitous. The surreal elements and hallucinations add an interesting layer, but are not fully explored or tied to the main story. The resolution feels rushed and unsatisfying.
Suggestions: Simplify the plot and focus on developing the central conflict and characters' arcs. Clarify the characters' motivations and make them more relatable. Reduce the emphasis on drug addiction and make the surreal elements more integral to the story. Cut down on subplots and use them to enhance the main story. Re-work the resolution to be more satisfying and tie up loose ends. Seek inspiration from successful addiction-related films such as Requiem for a Dream, Trainspotting, and Traffic.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Sara Goldfarb

Sara Goldfarb is an elderly woman who is struggling with addiction to prescription pills. At the beginning of the movie, she appears delusional, irrational, self-centered, and dependent on her favorite TV show. She is excited when she is informed of her opportunity to be on television, and she becomes increasingly isolated and paranoid as her addiction takes hold. Her hallucinations reflect her deepest desires and her fears and insecurities about her place in the world and her relationships with her family. She is a lonely and desperate woman who is easily influenced and not very knowledgeable about medicine.


Harry is a young man who struggles with addiction and the consequences it has on his relationships and life. He is impulsive and willing to take risks to get his next fix, but he also has a caring side that shows through in his love for his mother and his girlfriend Marion. At times, he can be cunning and shrewd as a drug dealer, but ultimately he wants to make a better life for himself and those he cares about.


Tyrone is a street-smart drug dealer who is Harry's loyal friend and business partner. He is more level-headed and practical than Harry, but still willing to take risks for their dealings. He has a laidback personality and a love for sweets, but is struggling with addiction and trying to get his life back on track. Despite this, he remains calm and quick-thinking in dangerous situations and is loyal to Harry.


Sara is an elderly, delusional, and eccentric woman who is obsessed with television and chocolate. She suffers from a variety of mental and physical health issues, including addiction, anxiety, and a poor self-image. Despite these challenges, Sara is devoted to her son Harry and determined to succeed on her favorite TV show. She is vulnerable and easily influenced by others, but she also has a strong will to survive and find purpose in her life.


Marion is a complex and multi-layered character, who is both vulnerable and strong. She is deeply in love with Harry but is struggling to reconcile her relationship with her aspirations for success. She battles feelings of worthlessness and seeks escape through drug use. Despite her addiction, she is a talented fashion designer with big dreams and ambitions. She is resourceful and willing to do whatever it takes to secure a fix. Her interactions with Harry highlight the complicated and strained relationship between the two characters. Marion is also conflicted about her addiction and is desperate to escape it. She struggles with withdrawal and is willing to put herself in dangerous and uncomfortable situations to obtain drugs. She is easily manipulated by those who can give her what she craves, but remains determined and ambitious despite her vulnerability.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Sara Goldfarb Sara Goldfarb's character arc begins with her delusional and self-centered behavior and progresses to her becoming increasingly isolated and paranoid due to her addiction to prescription pills. In her hallucinations, she dreams of appearing on TV and losing weight, showing her deepest desires and contrast with reality. Her addiction leads her to reach a breaking point and land in a mental institution, where she finally realizes the harm she has caused and seeks redemption. At the end of the movie, she is seen in a much happier state, indicating that she has found a sense of peace and purpose in her life. The character arc for Sara Goldfarb is well-defined and provides a clear depiction of her struggles with addiction and delusions. However, it lacks depth and detail in terms of how she reaches her breaking point and how she seeks to redeem herself. This could have been better developed to give a more complete picture of her journey.
To improve the character arc for Sara Goldfarb, the screenplay could have included more scenes that depict her descent into addiction and how this affects her relationships with her family and friends. It could also have delved more deeply into the negative effects of her addiction on her mental health and well-being. Additionally, more time could have been spent on her realization of the harm she has caused and her efforts to seek redemption, rather than simply showing her in a happy, reflective state at the end of the movie.
Harry Harry's character arc starts as a desperate drug addict who will do anything for his next fix. As the story progresses, he becomes more conflicted and aware of the negative impact drug addiction has on his life and relationships. He struggles to break free from his addiction and make amends with his mother, but also to win back Marion's love and trust. Eventually, he experiences a psychological breakdown and faces his own mortality, leading him to realize the importance of healing and making better choices for his future. Overall, Harry's character arc is well-developed and realistic. However, there are times when his motivations and actions may be unclear, making it difficult for the audience to fully empathize with him. Additionally, some of the supporting characters, such as Tyrone and Marion, could benefit from more development to further enhance Harry's journey.
To improve the character arc, it would be helpful to provide more insight into Harry's backstory and the root of his addiction. This could be done through flashbacks or interactions with his family. Additionally, it may be beneficial to give some of the supporting characters more depth and motivation to further enhance Harry's relationships and interactions with them.
Tyrone Tyrone starts off content to go along with Harry's plans, but as they get deeper into the drug trade, he becomes more practical and business-minded. Eventually, he becomes focused on getting rich through a big drug deal, but his addiction puts their plans at risk. In the end, he realizes the consequences of their actions and tries to turn his life around, ultimately getting clean and quitting the drug trade. Overall, the character arc for Tyrone is well-developed and highlights his struggle with addiction and desire for a better life. However, it would benefit from more nuance and depth, such as exploring the reasons behind his addiction and delving deeper into his relationships with other characters.
To improve the character arc, consider adding flashbacks or more backstory to uncover the root causes of Tyrone's addiction. Also, try to flesh out his relationships with other characters, such as Harry and Marion, to give more context to his actions and motivations.
Sara Sara's character arc begins with her being delusional and addicted to watching TV. She is willing to let Harry steal from her because she feels that he is all she has. Throughout the movie, Sara becomes increasingly obsessed with her upcoming TV appearance, leading her to fixate on her weight and appearance. She struggles with her self-image and is obsessed with dieting and eating sweets. With Harry's encouragement, Sara begins to take control of her life and loses weight. However, her addiction to dangerous diet pills leads to a spiraling mental health crisis that lands her in the psyche ward. Through intense treatments and therapy, Sara begins to overcome her addiction and mental illness, gaining agency and self-control. By the end of the movie, Sara is still vulnerable and fragile, but she is also stronger and more determined to find purpose in her life beyond her addiction and delusions. Overall, Sara's character arc is well-done and engaging. However, it feels somewhat rushed and underdeveloped in places. The transition from Sara being eager and excited about her TV appearance to being consumed by her addiction feels abrupt, and her journey to recovery happens too quickly. Additionally, there are times when it feels like Sara's character is defined solely by her mental illness and struggles with addiction, rather than being a fully-formed person with hopes, fears, and interests outside of those issues.
To improve Sara's character arc, the movie could slow down the pacing of her journey and spend more time exploring her motivations and emotions. Specifically, it would be helpful to see how Sara's addiction is connected to deeper issues around her self-image and sense of purpose, rather than just being a plot device to create drama. Additionally, the movie could give Sara more agency and scenes where she is able to take control of her life in meaningful ways, rather than just being victim to her addiction and mental illness. Overall, Sara's character deserves more nuance and depth beyond being a stereotypical 'crazy lady'.
Marion Marion's character arc begins with her as a disillusioned young woman seeking escape through drug use and dreaming of a better life. As the movie progresses, Marion becomes increasingly dependent on drugs and her self-worth diminishes. Her relationship with Harry becomes more strained and she acts out in ways that ultimately lead to her downfall. However, towards the end of the movie, Marion reaches a turning point and realizes that she needs help to overcome her addiction. She seeks out therapy and begins to take steps towards recovery. With the support of her friends, Marion begins to rebuild her sense of self-worth and takes control of her life, ultimately finding hope for a better future. Marion's character is well-developed and complex, but her arc feels somewhat predictable. The trajectory of her addiction and eventual recovery is a common theme in movies, and her character doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the conversation. Additionally, her relationship with Harry feels somewhat hollow and underdeveloped. Despite their deep connection, their interactions are often shallow and focused solely on their addiction, which makes it difficult to invest in their relationship.
To improve Marion's arc, the screenplay could focus more on her relationships with characters beyond Harry. This would add depth to her character and give her more opportunities to grow and change. Additionally, the movie could explore the root causes of her addiction in more depth, which would add complexity to her character and make her recovery feel more earned. Finally, Marion's interactions with Harry could be fleshed out more to make their relationship feel more believable and meaningful.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
AddictionThe characters are all struggling with addiction to drugs, diet pills, and Valium, and their addiction drives much of the plot.Addiction is the most prominent theme as it is the driving force behind much of the character's actions and problems. Harry, Marion, and Tyrone's addiction to drugs leads them to desperate actions, while Sara's addiction to diet pills and Valium puts her health in danger.
Family RelationshipsThe story revolves around Harry's relationship with his mother, Sara, and his girlfriend, Marion.Family relationships are an important theme as Harry's complicated relationship with his mother Sara provides much of the emotional tension in the story. The theme is also explored through Harry and Marion's relationship and the contrast between Harry's desire for a stable family life and his involvement in drug dealing.
DesperationMany of the characters' actions are driven by their desperate need for drugs or money.Desperation is a prominent theme as the characters' addiction and financial problems lead them to take increasingly desperate actions. This includes stealing and pawning items, planning risky drug trips to Florida, and engaging in dangerous sexual encounters.
IsolationSeveral characters struggle with loneliness and isolation throughout the story.Isolation is a theme that is explored through Sara's delusional behavior and her eventual hospitalization, Harry's isolation from his family and his struggle to connect with others, and Tyrone's struggle to cope with his mother's death and his incarceration in jail.
Fantasy vs. RealitySara's delusional behavior blurs the line between fantasy and reality, and her dream of winning a game show prize featuring her son Harry serves as a bittersweet moment.The theme of fantasy vs. reality is explored through Sara's delusional behavior, which creates an emotional distance between her and her family. Her dream of winning a game show featuring Harry serves as a poignant moment, highlighting the gap between her idealized vision of her family and the reality of their struggles.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


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Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

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