Sleepwalker – Nightmare with a Dreamboat [Review with Spoilers]

Long awaited, finally there: After filming way back in 2014, Elliott Lester’s Sleepwalker finally gets released. It has been a long time coming – and in order to avoid my new habit of never even recording my reactions to new work from Mr A’s oeuvre (Pilgrimage has never been reviewed here – which is a massive shame. After all it is set in Ireland. And unlike last year, I haven’t felt the motivation yet to review the first two episodes of BS either.) I am forcing a first response review of the film right now, even though I believe that it is the kind of film that would benefit from a few viewings before making any judgments on its merits. However, let’s take it like this: In a reviewing situation, a critic only has one opportunity to watch a film, and so the evaluation and conclusion is reached without the benefit of delving deeper into the cinematographic, dramatic and plot devices used. So here we go! Note: There will be SPOILERS!

Not only professionally interested in his patient: Dr Scott White talks with Sarah. Pic: Marvista Entertainment

Spoilers? Mind you, the biggest spoiler of all has already been disclosed in the trailer to the film. At least if you are an observant Armitage fan. And it gets repeated in the first few minutes of the film. After meeting the eponymous sleepwalker, a flashback takes us to the pivotal scene of the film. Sarah Wells (Ahna O’Reilly) is deeply traumatised by having witnessed her husband’s suicide. Plagued by nightmares, she returns to her university studies, hoping that a change of scenery will cure her nightly distress. Increasingly worried by her sleepwalking episodes, Sarah decides to check into a sleep clinic. That is where she meets Dr Scott White, a doctor who is quickly taking a lot of interest in her case – and her person. While Sarah finds restful sleep in the clinic, every time she wakes up after sleeping her reality seems to have changed: Her flat mate is a different woman, the clothes in her closet do not fit her anymore, the psychiatric doctor (not Dr White) whom she has consulted, does not recognise her anymore. In her nightmares, Sarah seems to seek out a particular woman – who repeatedly tells her to go away. Then there is a mysterious man who is stalking her, threatening her, actually harassing her. The only person she can trust is Dr White – to whom she turns for help and who becomes her lover. But no one in this film is who they seem, including Sarah, and the suicide witnessed in the beginning, is something entirely different…

Confused? Well, I have deliberately not summarised all of the film, because the plot of Sleepwalker has too many (unnecessary?) twists and turns to actually write them all down. But the film is deliberately creating this sensation of confusion. Because what we are actually seeing in the film is Sarah’s subconscious imagination, which is veering between dream and nightmare. And like the main character, the viewers are unable to tell reality and imagination apart – there is nothing to tell us what is true and what is imagined. No conventional techniques are used to help the viewer to distinguish between reality and dream, in fact. There are no changes in tonality or distortion as they may be conventionally used to identify dream and reality in film. But that is exactly the thing: This is quite clearly an arthouse film, both in content and in feel. The film does not want to be conventional, it breaks the rules of clarity and conventionality, right down to the plot. It remains somewhat convoluted and nebulous (with a rather quick denouement at the end), which makes the whole film look almost more about form rather than content.

More form than function?

Dark tones – and hipster vintage coats? Richard Armitage as Dr Scott White. Pic: Marvista Entertainment

And yes, it definitely has form, i.e. Sleepwalker has a very distinct aesthetic that also locates it in the indie genre. The tonality of the film is subdued, mostly browns and greys, a lot of darkness. There are very deliberately artful shots against the light, of sunsets through bike wheels, and lens-flare effects. A weird juxtaposition is the retro feel of the styling – this applies both to the costume choices in the film (with particularly the lead character displaying a rather strange, 60s inspired look), as well as the production design that uses a lot of mid-century furnishings. I found this weird dichotomy of the 60s style – Sarah’s costume, the architecture of the 60s apartment complex she lives in, the retro furniture in the apartments/offices that are shown, even Dr White’s (70s inspired?) coat and his pick-up truck (interesting choice for a medical doctor) – and a clear anchoring in the present (the iPhones, the medical equipment in the sleep clinic) distracting and weird. Which function does this styling serve? Sarah is *not* a person from the past; she is contemporary. Her flat mates and the “other woman” are shown in contemporary dress – so there must be a significance in the noticeably retro dress sense… Maybe even signalling what is real and what is imagined. For me, it was distracting and weird, even if the retro styling has the effect of making the design of the film look strangely timeless – with an emphasis on “strange”. But it is no doubt a very indie, edgy kind of aesthetic, and while that challenges me, I also liked the risk that the film makers took with such a choice.

Where, in my opinion, the film falls down, is in the lack of a gradual or comprehensible piecing together of the mystery that Sarah is trying to solve. There is no linear development whereby the main character would gather more and more pieces of the puzzle that finally enable her to understand what is happening. It is not as if she is discovering the mystery of the changing reality step-by-step and with one new fact leading to another. Instead, it seems as if she eventually just has some sort of “enlightened moment” in which she understands what is happening. As a conventional cinema-goer, I did not find this approach particularly attractive – I would’ve preferred a linear approach, almost like a murder-mystery kind of hunt for the truth where I, as the viewer, am joining the hunt, turning over the pieces of evidence in my mind as we go along. As it is, it felt as if the film had spent 45 minutes unnecessarily covering various mysterious reality-changing episodes in Sarah’s life only to then suddenly spring a resolution onto the heroine and the audience. There was an element of “why are you showing me the same thing over and over again?” to my viewing experience. That is not to say the film was boring – but I think it is a fine line between artful reinforcement and tiresome repetition.

Proper nightmare: Sarah restrained and isolated in a psychiatric ward. Screen cap from Sleepwalker

There is also a fine line between portraying mental illness as a serious condition and stigmatising it as “madness”. In that sense, I found some of the design choices of the film problematic: The institution that Sarah is sent to is scary – with mentally ill people wandering around aimlessly in corridors, bare rooms devoid of stimulation, and treatments that involve hand and leg cuffs. Sure, this is supposed to be a nightmarish scene, yet I can’t help but wonder whether such scenes, even if determined by artistic decisions, help reinforce stereotypes. Moreover, the irony wasn’t lost on me that this film was actually released on World Mental Health Day. I found that a rather sick joke, tbh.

However, the film is very effective in creating a sense of unease, even horror, about the mysteriously changing reality around Sarah. If mental instability manifests itself like this, how horrific must that be for a sufferer?! Indeed, Sleepwalker had me thinking about mental health and issues of identity/reality construction for a good 24 hours after watching. Reality, as the film purports, is a mere construction in our dreams. We create it – and our identity within it – to suit our mental stability. I found this an interesting idea to play with – as a fan, equipped with a lively imagination, I am no stranger to the construction of realities that involve a handsome bearded man *coughs*. Not necessarily in the role of a doctor. Oh, and not necessarily even with a beard. But always as a dreamboat that I catch whenever I feel I am sinking.

Damsel in Distress on a Dreamboat

From the mail order catalogue for damsel outfits… ooops, sorry, no, this is the Sleepwalker poster, courtesy Marvista Entertainment

Talking of dreamboats – this review is subtitled “Nightmare with a Dreamboat” – so let’s get to the acting in the piece. From the stills released prior to watching the film, I was worried that O’Reilly only had one facial expression to offer in the piece. But no, she is actually very good in Sleepwalker, ably portraying a mentally disturbed person. Particularly in the breakdown scenes where she is either scared and traumatised, or scared and violently defensive, she is very effective. Her character doesn’t give her that much scope for acting normality, though, as she has portray a confused person who has trouble making sense of the continually twisting reality around her. While the character is written as the figure of identification for the piece, I have to say I never quite warmed towards Sarah. That’s not really O’Reilly’s fault – I just couldn’t identify with the passivity of Sarah, and the traces of ‘damsel in distress’ – including the picturebook gothic horror virgin in billowing white nightgown (see left) with long luscious locks and wide eyes.

Here comes the saviour! Richard Armitage as Dr Scott White, rescuing Sarah from the institution. Picture: Marvista Entertainment

And Armitage, well, he *is* the Dreamboat of the piece, in every sense of the word. He may have put us on the wrong track by hinting that “Dr Scott White is not what he seems”. Because that little hint does not refer to some dark secret that the character harbours. Dr White is the saviour in this film, unequivocally positive, and even the unprofessionally close (romantic) relationship he quickly engages in with his patient. It all makes sense in the end why he does so – because [major SPOILER] he is a figment of Sarah’s imagination. He does not exist, and thus she fashions in her mind the ideal of the ‘knight in shining armour’, the man who believes her, helps her, saves her and loves her. Armitage gets to display a wider scope of emotions here and brings across the medical professional as well as the emotionally involved friend/lover. Several bonuses: “DIY Armitage” in snug jeans and exposed forearms nailing something against the wall; “Saviour Armitage” in full carrying-the-damsel mode; “Wall Action Armitage” with more nailing activity of the *other* kind; and some “Caring Armitage” with thumb caresses, fragile wrist bones, spooning and tender cupped-hand-on-head gestures. Yes, all of that makes this film very worth-while.

Yes, Armitage fills this role very well. Yet I don’t really think he had to properly stretch his acting chops in this role. He is not quite totty in the film, but neither is he given room to show the full extent of his abilities. One only wishes that he were to do ‘his thing’ in a lead role rather than supporting character. He quite clearly has what it takes to be a leading man – the artistic capabilities, the looks, the general appeal. It is a disappointment to see him time and again supporting other (and sometimes lesser) actors without getting a sufficient vehicle to showcase his own talent on the big screen.

Deserves a large photo: A bit of eyelash porn for the discerning viewer… Gentle Dr White reassures Sarah. Pic: Marvista Entertainment

Conclusion

So what is the final verdict on Sleepwalker? In my case, it is as confused as I perceived the film to be. I definitely did not feel bored watching it, yet I do think that it had one or two twists/confused reality examples too many. I did like the general aesthetics of the film, but I was (negatively) distracted by the odd styling of the lead character and the weird retro vibe of the production design. I enjoyed the general premise, as well as the actual solution of the film, yet I was disappointed that I basically knew where it was headed right from that scene at the beginning – and from the major spoiler that was contained in the trailer. I enjoyed some of the issues that are being taken up in the film – reality as a construction – but I felt the conclusion of the film came too quick and left too many questions unanswered. If there is something I unequivocally enjoyed in the film, it is the performances of the two leads who – individually – were great choices for the role of the doe-eyed innocent victim, and the slightly dubious yet massively delicious saviour. That said, I am not sure whether the casting is entirely successful – I suspect that a slightly younger male lead may have matched O’Reilly a bit better. (And before you come at me with APM: No, I do not mean to say that Armitage is too old or looks too old; I am just suggesting that *together* these two actors may not quite match.)

My notes contain a few other points, but I am going to leave it at this for now. If you haven’t seen Sleepwalker yet, I would recommend you do. For Armitage fans, Sleepwalker is an interesting new genre to explore, where Richard is once-again typecast as a slightly dubious character – only to turn out the good kind, for a change. And I think it is a great departure for Armitage in terms of participation in an arthouse project that has distinctly artistic direction, content and cinematography. I only wish it had been a little clearer…

 

66 thoughts on “Sleepwalker – Nightmare with a Dreamboat [Review with Spoilers]

  1. I’m sorry (or not) but the sentence about DIY-Armiatge ‘nailing something against the wall’ made me go somewhere totally dirty in my mind.. Well, I’ll need to shop in Amazon tonight 🙂

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  2. I viewed it once 2 days ago. Agree with most everything you’ve said. Plus – tacky use of Haley Joel “I See Dead People” Osmond. Disturbed about what the film conveys about how men (Lester and Olsen) view women’s fantasies. I did like Ahna’s retro style wardrobe for the most part. Seems like there was always a see through layer; (lace, raincoat). Dead giveaway – a sleepwalking grad student with a roommate wearing a sexy negligee nightly? I’ll rewatch Frozen.

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    • That is such a good point, S! The damsel in distress who is dreaming up her saviour – well, maybe that is what the director and the scriptwriter *dream about* themselves 😂…
      The see-through layer – oh, true, there is possibly a symbolic meaning to that, too, now that you mention it. The floaty nighties were rather sexy, especially when it started raining. Wet t-shirt fantasies come to mind. But well, it’s all fiction…
      As for Frozen – do sexy negligees feature in that, too? I have never watched it. Should really put it on my list.

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  3. Dein “major spoiler” – die Grundidee, RA als “der Doktor im Geiste” – hat mir gut gefallen!
    Dennoch gehört der Film auch für mich nicht zu den “Must-Sees”, obwohl ich gerne und viel lieber sogenannte “kleine”, Indie-Filme im Kino anschaue als Blockbuster.
    Spannend, aber mit Längen. Die immer wiederkehrende Platikfolienszene z.B. fand ich nervig: um wen es sich dabei handelt, erfahren wir fast beiläufig ganz zum Schluss.
    Über Anna O’Reillys Garderobe habe ich mich auch sehr gewundert.
    Mein (ganz grobes) Fazit ist: besser als Brain on fire (vor allem auch eine viel nuanciertere Rolle für RA), aber mit viel Luft nach oben. Und ich stimme ein in den Refrain: gebt dem Mann Hauptrollen! Er könnte es, wenn man ihn ließe! Seufz.

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    • Ich bin auch ein Indie-Fan, insofern war ich eigentlich sehr gewillt, diesen Film toll zu finden. Und richtig schlecht ist er auch nicht, aber irgendwie auch jetzt nicht bahnbrechend toll. Für mich eindeutig auf die Spoiler zurückzuführen. Hätte ich den Trailer nicht gesehen, wäre die Pointe auf jeden Fall wirksamer gewesen. Nun ja, weiß auch nicht – bedeutet das, dass das also meine eigene Schuld und der Film eigentlich super ist?
      Und ja, um einiges besser als Brain on Fire, sowohl inhaltlich und in der kreativen Umsetzung, als auch was Armitages Rolle angeht. Es ist einfach jammerschade, dass er in Nebenrollen verheizt wird. Urban hat genau das gerade richtig gemacht – da hat er mal mehr Gelegenheit, sein schauspielerisches Können zu zeigen. Und genau *der* Film scheint für immer verschollen zu sein.

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      • Mich hat der Altersunterschied übrigens nicht gestört: wenn sie eine Studentin mimt, darf der erfahrene Doc oder der erfolgreiche Schriftsteller durchaus älter sein. Wäre mein Gedanke dazu.
        Aber gerade sie wird schon sehr überpointiert dargestellt – wo ihre Kommilitoninnen normal und zeitgemäß daher kommen.

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        • Vielleicht war das in der Tat so beabsichtigt – ein kleiner Hinweis darauf, was real und was Traum ist? Und stimmt schon – Männer dürfen ja immer etwas älter sein…

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  4. Nochmal was zu Ihrer Garderobe: ja, irgendwie 60s, dann aber auch so merkwürdig Girlie/Manga? Ich denke da an diese halben Strümpfe in den Pumps. Und das Nacht- oder doch Nackt-fähnchen ist sicher ausschließlich der Ästhetik des Genres geschuldet.
    Und die klaustrophobische Handschellenszene kann auch nur Ausdruck des Alptraums sein, in dem Sarah gefangen ist. Oder werden Patienten allen Ernstes mit den Armen ÜBER dem Kopf die ganze Nacht fixiert? Ich meine, da schläft einem doch alles ein….
    Ach und ja, ich würde niiiiiiieeeeeeee annehmen, dass du gemeint haben könntest, Mr. A. sei für irgendwas, irgendwann und für alle Zeiten zu alt. 😀

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    • Diese fiesen halbhohen Strümpfe in den F*ck-Mich-Pumps fand ich auch äußerst seltsam. Ist das wirklich Mode? Ich mein, kann ja auch sein, dass ich wirklich völlig in Sachen Mode unterbelichtet bin. Das Nacktfähnchen (haha, wirklich, wie passend) dagegen ist reine Männerfantasie. Ehrlich, mir würd ja nicht einfallen, mich in so einem Wallegewand ins Bett zu legen. Da verfängt man sich doch drin wie in einem Spinnennetz *kopfschüttel*.
      Das mit der Horrorszene in der Psychiatrie war ganz sicher “überästhetisiert”. Ich finde das allerdings wirklich problematisch angesichts der derzeitigen Bemühungen, psychischen Erkrankungen das Stigma zu nehmen. Alptraum hin oder her – ich fand das wirklich ziemlich stereotyp.
      Und letztlich zum altersgemäßen Einsatz von Herrn Armitage im Spielfilmbereich. Meinetwegen kann Herr seinen wohlgeformten Allerwertesten… eh, ich meinte eigentlich “Bizeps”… noch öfter und auch gerne in Großaufnahme einsetzen. Wir altern ja quasi gemeinsam, insofern bleibt das immer auf der Höhe. Nur irgendwann wird’s dann evtl. doch etwas fragwürdig, wenn die Filmpartnerinnen nicht mitaltern…

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  5. Hi 🙋
    I saw the trailer . I am not that enthusiastic though to see Sleepwalker just because the Armitage is in it . I never even seen pilgrimige . Not interested in the middle ages though is good to know history ..I saw Ahna Oreilly before in the movie The Help . She is an OK actor . And of course you cant see anything on social media than that picture when Armitage and herself are “making Love” kinda 😂😂 After a while it becomes boring .Thanks for the review . I really did not plan watching it , but after your honest writing , I think I’m leaving it out 😂😂

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    • I think that is a fair enough reaction, Judit. I wouldn’t consider this film “must see” – it’s a little bit too niche for that, yet not quite extraordinary, either. And yes, there’s a lot of emphasis on lovey-dovey Dr Scott… Not surprisingly, though, since the latest Berlin Station episodes have not provided any light relief of that kind…

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      • Yeah . I love that word Lovey Dovey 😹😹 you see I don’t even mind to be very honest that they don’t show the lovely dovey side of the Armitage 😹😹 and I suppose you are not suppressed that I’m not sane in that . I’m not prude .. not that I mean I’m pregnant with my 2nd baby , so it deffenitly wont make me prude .. but Hollywood really goes for “that” types of scenes and they can be really boring 👀👀 I rather liked R in Hannibal . I like him as a bad guy . Though in Hannibal he did a character who was not really bad , but suffered with bad mental illness . 😞 Have you seen Ahna in another production ? I suppose R did meet with different actors with different talent of acting . I think Michelle Forbes is one really great actor .

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        • I have never seen Ahna O’Reilly act before, so no idea. And yes, RA is always very effective as a baddie or a dubious character. Which would make it even more interesting to see him in a clear-cut hero role. As for love scenes – hm, boring? I suppose it depends on what you are used to *haha*.

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          • S, if you haven’t seen the movie drama The Help, with an extraordinary female cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain (in a role she actually laughs in), Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney….you’ve GOT to watch it. Ahna O’Reilly plays another young housewife back in the 60s completely cowed and under the control of a really nasty Bryce Dallas Howard who actually ends up in a couple of the funniest scenes that just had us howling with laughter.

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            • Oh, actually, now that you mention it – I think I *have* seen “The Help”. On the in-flight entertainment on my way to New York last year. (No wonder I didn’t remember it – I was distRActed 😂).

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              • I’m having fun in my mind imagining you on that flight. It was a “work” trip, right? Riiiiiight. Did you have colleagues on the same flight? Did they have any idea what you were planning to do during those few extra days you stayed in New York?

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                • Hehe, yes, a work trip. My colleagues were flying into New York via London, and they had already set off a day earlier. Mind you, I would have liked the distraction of having my colleagues on the flight. I don’t really like flying all that much…
                  And yes, they knew I was going to see a play and meet my friends on the extended days. (They are quite used to me being an avid theatre goer, because I always have a full programme when I am in London. So it didn’t need any explanation 😉)

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  6. Great review, and has helped clarify some stuff for me! I’m definitely going to re-watch it, probably multiple times, and not just for the wall action (though that’s always nice to see!). My big question: what’s your take on the very end **SPOILERS AHEAD** where we see Sarah asleep? unconscious? in a hospital? sleep center? with creepy Haley Joel Osment tending to her? Is the whole movie the dream/imagination of that Sarah in that bed?? Is it all made up or did she actually kill her lover and this is her way of dealing with it? (sorry, more than just one big question)

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    • *SPOILER ANSWER* My take on it is that that is “Anna” – she’s the fan who killed Jonathan (the writer) and then put the gun to her own head. But she didn’t manage to kill herself and thus is now in hospital, probably under the influence of drugs, plagued by her own nightmare, de/constructing her imagined reality in her head. Creepy Joel Osment is a male nurse/orderly in the ward, and his looking after her must have made its way into Anna’s sub/consciousness. I understood the plot in such a way as to present the whole film as Anna’s dream – although there were bits in it that kind of didn’t really fit with that concept. What do you think?

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      • *SPOILER REPLY* After thinking about it all day after my first viewing, I came to a similar conclusion: that the entire movie was in Anna’s (and thanks for reminding me that was Anna and not Sarah in the bed) head/dreams, after trying to kill Jonathan. However, the theory that she was a fan rather than a lover is intriguing, and I do recall her talking about Jonathan’s fans. Reading your review and perspective, along with other reviews, has given me more to think about and more to look out for when I re-watch the movie! One thing we can all agree on: Armitage is really hot in this movie, and one can’t blame Sarah/Anna for making him the “hero” of her fantasy. 🙂

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        • There is one other thing to be said about the film: It really kept me thinking about it for quite a while afterwards, and I kept turning it over and over in my head trying to figure out what the film was about – identity? constructing reality as a coping mechanism? There aren’t that many films that keep my attention for hours afterwards, but this one did.

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  7. Wow, once again, apart from the fact that we were bothered by the costumes, I feel like we saw two very different films. [shrugs). For instance, the film does attempt to use conventional techniques to create a notion of reality (the recurring nightgown, the CGI effects, the attempt to reconcile facts); it just always undermines them either immediately or later on. Re: is the institution realistic? It was clearly supposed to signal the horror / irreality of the situation. But is it totally unrealistic? i would say no, based on US mental institutions i have seen. Yes, these institutions still drag people kicking and screaming down the halls (iirc, we saw this in BOF). Yes, patients are still held in frightening looking restraints. They think she’s psychotic and she’s resisting commitment and I found all that not very surprising. I don’t see Sarah as a passive character — she is constantly going from place to place, looking for evidence, asking people to give her information, but I found her very capable of identification. Her fantasies are a refuge that balance her activity. (There’s also something very accurately metaphorical there about the fan experience, I thought, which tends to try to make one passive.) Lots of Americans drive pickup trucks, including doctors and it fits with his home renovation project. If you’re a DIY guy, you need a truck. 🙂

    Overall, I’m happy to see him in good supporting roles and I thought this qualified (vs Brain on Fire). He was creepy and I thought that was pretty effective in terms of his “identity” as someone created by Sarah. She has a pretty good imagination — but Armitage was the one who had to execute it.

    I didn’t think the trailer spoiled the film, but I’m much less set on a single unitary interpretation of “what happened” in this film than you are, I guess.

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    • Having read your summary and review, I think the difference is that my review stays far more superficial than yours. I believe that we both have reached similar conclusions about the plot, the mystery, the role of the characters and the eventual conclusion. I particularly enjoyed how you put the film in context with the Freudian distinction between superego, ego and id. Having watched the film only once, that did not occur to me but is actually quite clear now that you have mentioned it. But that is, I think, the crux of my review – it’s a “first impressions” kind of review, and as I said in my intro, “it is the kind of film that would benefit from a few viewings before making any judgments on its merits”. Upon reflection I can see what you mean re. conventional techniques, or your point that Sarah is not passive but active even more so. I think the “gothic horror styling” (another case in point for you re. conventionality) blinded me.
      Re. the trailer – what I found most spoilerish about the trailer was actually not the fact that Armitage appeared in it as Grey. That was a minute detail that only fans would’ve picked up, anyway. What spoiled it for me, was the voice over that clearly says “I loved Jonathan Grey. But I wasn’t his wife. I was the other woman.” For me, that gave away the major twist of the tale.

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      • I wrote the review part of the film after seeing it only once and made minor changes. I added details but the basic perceptions were already there. The second two watchings were to confirm I understood the plot and write the plot summary. That said: Sarah’s confession is *a* plot twist. *The* plot twist is IMO the revelation that Anna is in the hospital bed. [shurgs]

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        • Agreed – there are many plot twists. This one was just the *biggest* spoiler *for me*. Anna in the hospital bed was definitely an unspoilt surprise. That was the scene that brought it all together, I guess, especially with Osment turning up as a nurse and thus providing an explanation as to the mysterious stalker who is harrassing Sarah/Anna.
          In my opinion, the film is a classic example of a multi-layered piece of art that will speak differently to every viewer. Maybe you are right and our readings of it are not as similar as I thought.

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  8. In regards to the restraints used to chain her to the bed – I felt they symbolized the trapped, chained feeling she would have after shooting herself in the head and being trapped in her dream/fantasy and coma like state that was revealed at the end (the ‘beautiful’ lightening she sees from Dr. White’s window is what happened when the bullet hit her brain) and they weren’t related to mental health institutions for me. The stalker suffocating her was the male nurse who adjusts her oxygen when it goes on the fritz leaving her gasping for air (does he cut off the oxygen intentionally so he can touch her – that left me feeling a bit creeped out). Also, the flowing white nightgown – the way it was constructed very much seemed like she was in a dreamlike state with a white (hospital) sheet flowing behind her – trapped in her mind in her hospital bed but wandering and searching.

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    • What you are saying makes sense. there is a symbolic layer to the scenes in the psychiatric ward, that was clear to me, too, and they are deliberately overstated. I found that most affecting – the whole idea of mental instability, how it affects people and how it is dealt with, scares me.
      Interesting reading of the floating nightgown as a hospital sheet. That hadn’t occurred to me, but anything is valid.

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    • I like your lightening theory and I agree there is a possibility that Anna thinks of Osment as her stalker/suffocator because she has glimpsed him playing with her air supply.

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  9. I love your review! Please do reviews more often. I love hearing your thoughts.

    Thank you for printing spoilers. I’m tired of waiting for the dope on this movie, and you have delivered.

    There’s a damsel in distress who dream-invents her savior, and that savior is Richard Armitage? Sounds like fan fiction to me. Of the very best kind!

    And he plays a genuinely romantic man, even if the character is not real? None of his characters are “real.” Who cares?

    And part of the plot has an artist (writer) who gets shot by a fan? So the movie is partly about fandoms? Isn’t that a parallel for us to discuss ad nauseam?

    I can’t wait to see this movie!

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    • I had the fan factor in mind immediately while watching and it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Lol.
      She’s a stalker, her mind is absorbed by her imagined life and her efforts to get back to real life dominate or rather flicker up in her dreams and subconsciousness.
      Not really a promising scenario for any fan addiction… *Shudders* 😉

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    • Hehe, fan fiction… yes, there is an element of that, at least to me, as a fan, and in combination with the interpretation that Sarah was the fan who killed the author.
      I found Dr White as a character rather a romantic version of what we call “demi-god in white” in German (referring to the white coats worn by medical professionals, this is the idea of the medical doctor as a life-saving hero). (That also fits so well with the name of the character – coincidence?) In the film – and hopefully unlike reality – the doctor very quickly becomes personally involved with his patient, not only putting her up for the night in his house, but eventually sleeping with her and becoming romantically involved. The stuff of fantasy 🙂. Certainly very compatible with potential fangirl needs.
      As for the fan angle in the piece – you can never be too sure that anything you see in the film is meant to be “reality”, but there are indications in the film that the writer (who Sarah claims to have been her husband), has been shot by a stalking fan. That is mentioned in a newspaper article which she checks on the internet. It is possible to conclude that she is actually the fan whose love for and interest in her adored celeb writer has gone too far. (However, it’s also possible to think that she is merely a jilted lover.) But I don’t really think that the fandom question is particularly the focus of the film – the story works equally well if you just assume that Sarah is a jilted lover who kills her man out of jealousy.

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            • I personally don’t get why fans would feel tweaked by this. We’re not stalking him with handguns. (Well, I can only speak for myself.) It was important that she was a fan for the fantasy element, which was central to how the narrative was constructed — the differing, developing perpsectives. But while I thought, wow, this is great, that is exactly how my own fantasy develops, I’m not mentally ill and I have fantasized about breaking into anyone’s house or killing anyone, let alone Richard Armitage. In all these years I have never met or talked with any fan who did.

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              • Genuine question: but surely the differing, developing perspectives are not *only* characteristic for *fans*? I agree that the fan angle adds a different implication of obsession to her character that a jilted lover (without the fan angle) doesn’t have. But strictly speaking, couldn’t any person have a vivid imagination that manifests itself in the multitude of perspectives in their dreams?

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                • Yes, anyone could — but it’s a more typical experience for the fan and it’s credible to both fans and non-fans that that is what is happening in the imagination of the fan. What might separate the fan is the fixation on the crush. I don’t think that usually happens to non-fans.

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        • If that was so, it definitely worked in my case. The fan angle immediately resonated with me, and I noted in my notebook “felt slight unease about the fan thing btw”…

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  10. Pingback: Sleepwalker: Nothing is Black or White SPOILERS. | Armitage Agonistes

  11. Beautiful review. I know just what you mean about it getting a review posted quickly, so it actually happens. You know what I mean, too. I especially appreciated your comments on the visuals, because those are things I tend to miss or ignore. I do think some scenes occur in a linear fashion, usually cued by Sarah’s costumes. Also, it was interesting that even in dreams or fantasies, there were flashbacks ( to the J. Gray scenes) I, too would have preferred a solvable mystery and I think the writer/director tricked us into thinking we could do that for some time, in the film. I just don’t know about the ending. If it is as you think ( and I think) then it’s a bit of a cop-out on one level, i.e. it is all a series of dreams by a comatose or sedated patient. Anna, in the final scene, showed no evidence of a wound – this is almost impossible, so now I wonder whether there ever was a murder suicide, or is she suffering as a result of something else? We can’t trust the scene with the newspaper article because Scott White is reading about Jonathan Gray.
    If there is any truth/fact to the premise about her husband, it makes sense that he/Scott would be older than she was, because she tells Dr. White that she studied Jonathan Gray’s novels in school. That would make him much older than Sarah/Anna.

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  12. I have quickly scrolled through all the comments as I don’t want to read ‘spoilers’ but I want to know how people outside the United States have been able to view this as I thought it was ‘geo blocked’

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  13. Thankyou for your thoughts! I haven’t seen Sleepwalker yet, but I am taking all the reviews and opinions on board, both blogger and commenter for when I do. I don’t care about spoilers! I’m a superficial viewer – generally I like a reasonably straightforward narrative and all the loose ends tied up when the final credits roll (unless there’s a sequel!). It’s only when I read discussions like this that I can begin to see and appreciate the layers of meaning in a movie for myself. 🙂

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  14. A few things, even though late, no realistic chance to watch anything i real time so therefore always a delayed reaction. But with the general gaps between pieces of work that’s ok 🙂
    I don’t think in this particular film the age gap is an issue as i think it is actually an integral part of the subject. She was the fan of an older professor/writer and even from the conversation with her friend she seems to lean towards slightly more mature men. Not to say this isn’t an issue in film overall as it certainly is.
    What bothered me way more was the fact that she spend a lot of her time under-dressed and in very suggestive clothing, regardless of the circumstances. And while i take the point that it’s literally fantasy and in her own head it’s more representative of a male fantasy than a female one me thinks. I felt it was just a bit too obvious for me and i didn’t feel the ‘dream’ element completely justified it.

    I found it generally interesting, certainly much better than BOF even though not quite my cup of tea. I’ve seen this kind of mind twister thing before and i don’t enjoy it all that much. Reality spinning stuff is interesting to create but i like scientific stuff too much to really go along and not roll my eyes. Dreams are just dumps of our subconscious, a way for the brain to cleanse and reboot itself and of course it will use information it has stored and recent stimuli But they don’t ‘mean’ anything really. That is for somebody who is able to wake up. I am concerned and it is an uncomfortable thought that people in coma can become trapped in a dream world that is horrific. I would hope that is not the case and that maybe external stimuli can help jot positive experiences from the subconscious but who knows. I was grateful to Elliot for not deciding to trap her in a horror forever as it seemed there was a slight indication of a happy dream end for the relationship she dreamt up for herself.
    I also don’t think the film is about mental health in a traditional way, not if we don’t count the stalker fan element of it which is just a pretext i think for the film, not the main element of it. I don’t mean it’s not important, because it is, it’s certainly supposed to be what triggered her to shoot the writer and then try to shoot herself after. But that’s just the starting point to explore what could possibly go on in the mind of somebody trapped in a coma? Is anything of reality left, can they construct a new one for themselves, can they still feel or interpret things that happen to their bodies and in which way? I can see the fascination of exploring the subject.
    As to the stalker fan thing it’s the one elements from the trailer that made it easier to distinguish that she was in a dream state all the time since she obviously retraced some of that in her dream. Didn’t feel particularly disturbed by that, fan is fan and stalker which is what she was is a mentally ill person, being a fan doesn’t make one a stalker. There isn’t a gradual scale that leads from fan to stalker, unfortunately the latter is a deeply disturbed and mentally ill person, i see no reason why anyone with a hobby or an interest should feel uncomfortable about this. One can fantasize as much as one wants, as long as one recognises what is reality and what is fantasy. The type of situation he starts with is one where is person is unfortunately so unwell they can’t distinguish between the 2.
    Interestingly enough what made it watchable for me in spite of the twisty absurd rolls which had no solution as it turned out in the end was precisely the cinematography and the styling. She acted really well but it was the atmosphere and styling that created the entrancing element and tension at the same time. The dreamlike state if you will. The twilight, the muted colour tone, the water etc. It was also mostly very close up, not really claustrophobic but very short on perspective, very boxed in at times (bottom and top of images cut through the narrow view). I think the one things that makes it feel less like a dream is precisely the fact that she’s 90% of the time the focus of the image.. one does not dream about oneself like that, the focus is on others and surroundings But it’s a film 😉 all fantasy.

    i thought it was nice how he allowed her to have her dream lover and although not sure if it gels with the rest of the atmosphere in it but i loved his warm smile when she tells him, confirming in a way that she will keep this relationship in her dream and will keep him exactly as she has created him in her mind, Nice and comforting touch given the anxiety which the director has built up. I feel quite a bit of relief..lost again as what the male nurse as in reality up to didn’t seem entirely ok.
    And yes i rewatched some of the dream doctor scenes, totally out of context, thanks very much, and no guilt about it and i doubt i rewatch the whole thing again. It works well once but i suspect not as much if you loose the tension of it and the uncertainty. And that was a nice love scene i thought taking great advantage in cinematography of the difference in stature between the 2.
    While i don’t find Elliot’s fantasy all the way endearing from a female viewer perspective i appreciate his eye for light and cinematography and i was grateful for it not taking a completely dark dive at the end, had enough of that lately. And yes, hopefully we’ll get some meaty part for him sometime soon. As fillers go this isn’t the worst of them.
    I hope on a generic front that the human mind is resilient enough or strongly protectively wired to allow people in comas to dream in non-horrific ways 😦 but we know at least from PTSD sufferers that that’s not always the case.

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    • You’re making a fair point re. the age gap that I criticised. If Dr White is a figment of her imagination, and if she has a thing for mature men, then it would fit that she conjures up her fantasy saviour in that shape…
      The clothing issue didn’t really bother me in a feminist sort of way when it came to her day wear. The costuming was certainly weird, but it was relatively high-necked. But her see-through nightwear was another thing. It had a gothic vibe to it – and kind of felt like sledgehammer symbolism: the damsel needing rescue.
      Fan v. stalker – that was certainly a part of the film where I felt that what I bring to the film myself was obscuring the intentions of this plot element. You are perfectly right, of course, that fan ≠ stalker. And moreover, the film was not really making a comment on fan culture at all. The fact that Sarah/Anna was a stalker, was a twist in the story that helps drive the plot, nothing else.
      I still haven’t rewatched the film – and somehow I don’t really feel like it at all. That’s to do with the subject matter – I do like psychological thrillers, but I am scared of mental illness, and it is something I find hard to contemplate. I can only too easily imagine being caught in a never-ending nightmare.

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