Those who feel abandoned, betrayed, or neglected by their parents call out to each other in code that may or may not be picked up. Is anybody out there who cares? Is anyone looking for me? Gus Van Sant's new film, My Own Private Idaho, is about two young men searching for a home where they can feel at ease.

River Phoenix plays Mike, a troubled street hustler who yearns to find his lost mother. He has narcolepsy, a condition which causes him to fall suddenly into a deep sleep in moments of stress or anxiety. He often dreams about salmon leaping upstream to get back to their place of birth.

Mike, who has a difficult time taking care of himself, finds safety and comfort in his friendship with Scott (Keanu Reeves), the rebellious son of the mayor of Portland. His stand-in father is Bob Pigeon (William Richert), the poetry-spouting leader of a gang of youthful thieves and hustlers.

Although it is easy to appreciate Van Sant's inventive cinematography and his brilliant use of dream imagery, he has placed several hurdles in the way of the traditional movie-going public. The subject of gay prostitution will bother some while others will be put off by the film's reworking of Shakespeare's Henry IV plays (Parts I and II) through Scott's character. Nonetheless, My Own Private Idaho succeeds as a universal drama about the search for home.