State Like Sleep is a new drama film written and directed by Meredith Danluck and starring Katherine Waterston, Michael Shannon, and Luke Evans. It is about a woman who begins to discover the secrets of her celebrity husband’s life after he commits suicide. It debuted at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.
One of the biggest issues with this movie is that its characters simply aren’t compelling. The protagonist is a grieving widow, and there isn’t much more to her. This is particularly frustrating given the fact that the foundations of an interesting character are there — for one, she has a life of her own apart from her husband’s — but they choose to ignore them. The supporting characters were even more frustrating. They served as nothing more than devices to deliver dialogue and move the protagonist towards her eventual end result.
The pacing of the film is quite problematic too. It is extremely slow, but not in a contemplative way. Rather, it just seems to be meandering through the script without regard for keeping the attention of the audience. The character arc is very straightforward and could have been compressed into a movie twenty to thirty minutes shorter and far more interesting as a result.
The film is also plagued with bad tonal shifts. At multiple points, the movie switched genres. At some points it was a drama about a grieving widow. At others it would be a thriller about her investigating what “really” happened to her husband. Later, it would become a romance between her and the mysterious stranger that continues to cross her path. The cycle continues and, quite frankly, it’s exhausting to keep up with all the changes. At a certain point, the intrigue is lost and it is time to check out of the film.
It doesn’t help that the movie’s plot is extremely convoluted. The main plot is about the protagonist trying to explore her late husband’s life, and that was mostly developed. On the other hand, the subplots are entirely unsatisfying. There is one involving her husband’s mysterious best friend who is a drug dealer with a temper. When he is introduced, this storyline is pretty intriguing, but it soon fizzles out. Another subplot involving the protagonist’s mother is completely unnecessary.
On a technical level, the film is largely competent, but it isn’t attractive either. The shots are well-framed, but the movie as a whole feels so cold and distant that it is no longer aesthetically appealing. This could be the overall mood and feel for which the film was aiming, but it doesn’t work. Even the club scenes, which should be loud and energetic, feel unsettlingly dull.
The movie also feels like it is wasting the talent of the actors involved. The three leads — Waterston, Shannon, and Evans — have all shown that they can take mediocre scripts and give solid turns. Unfortunately, they just don’t shine in this film. Their performances aren’t bad, but they are also far from their best work. Waterston and Shannon are too monotonous. It is almost as if Danluck wasn’t guiding them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Evans hams it up, delivering a performance far too flashy for the movie.
Overall, State Like Sleep was a disappointing film. It had quite a bit of potential, and a stellar cast, but the script is uneven and the execution is lackluster.
State Like Sleep is now available on VOD and opens in theaters January 4.