Synopsis – After a devastating global event wipes out all electronics and eliminated people’s ability to sleep, a former soldier may have found a solution with her daughter.
My Take – For most of us, after pitching in a good six to eight hours of work, the best moment of comfort arrives when we finally decide to give the mind and body the much deserved rest by necessarily going to sleep.
Building upon this basic notion Netflix’s latest thriller wants us to imagine a world how things would turn out where we are just not able to. Set up on the lines of films like A Quiet Place (2018) and Bird Box (2018), here, director Mark Raso (Kodachrome), who wrote the screenplay with his brother Joseph Raso from a story from Gregory Poirier (The Spy Next Door), attempts to capture that inability on larger scale, by also shutting of all the electronics in the world, making this a seemingly intriguing plot to witness.
Ironically, despite the fictional world descending into complete disorder and societal collapse due to sleeplessness, this is also a film where you’ll find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open to. With the plot serving simply a backdrop to a formulaic post-apocalyptic romp, the resulting film instead feels surprisingly long given the 96 minute run-time.
Mainly as it simply lacks the necessary thrill and element of unpredictability to keep things enjoyable. Rather it prefers to move at a snail pace, unfolding with cliché filled lackluster dialogues and a sheer lack of enthusiasm, making this is an openly lazy affair.
The story follows Jill (Gina Rodriguez), a widowed veteran and struggling mother, who works in a laboratory as a security guard, all in the hopes of winning back the custody of her children, her teenage son Noah (Lucius Hoyos) and her 10-year-old daughter Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt), from her former mother in law, Doris (Frances Fisher), even if it means she has to siphon off expired medicines to keep her cash income afloat.
But those things become trivial when the world suddenly begins to collapse around her, starting with all forms of electronics suddenly shutting down, followed by men, women and children simply losing their ability to sleep.
Making matters worse is the fact that Matilda seems unaffected by this mysterious ailment and is able to keep her normal sleep cycle, hereby setting her up as a prime target for anyone looking for a solution. With their safety put in question, Jill is forced to take her and Noah and hit the road to reach the army guarded research lab run by her former colleague Doctor Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is a developing a cure.
As I mentioned above, the film fails to garner any tension when Jill and her children have a dangerous run-in with members of this now incredibly zonked world. And by rushing the timeline and condensing every scrap of insanity into the course of a single week, it renders the entire concept absurd.
It’s as if the filmmakers committed to a vision of the script without ever stopping to wonder if any part of it actually made sense. That somehow the entire world has immediately realized after a single sleepless night that no one can sleep feels preposterous, but to leap from there to scenes of marauding gangs and attempted child murder is insane. With the pacing so badly off, there’s no opportunity to make an emotional connection with anyone outside of Jill.
Although there are a few jokes and humorous moments, the film’s general tone is deadly serious, often to its detriment. It’s an inherently silly premise, and no matter how much awful stuff happens, it’s hard not to find a world of people drunkenly stumbling about a little funny.
There’s one short scene where the family drives past a group of naked people staring blankly at the sun, and make absolutely no comment on it. Rather than feeling eerie, it just feels bizarre. The film fails only in the sense that it’s a film in one note, and thus its story only knows one direction, which is downhill. It makes a mystery of why a little girl can sleep while others can’t and then, eventually, solves that mystery, but ultimately the absence of a second idea, an underlying reason or purpose or overarching meaning to the action keeps the film from being fully satisfying.
The best thing that could have done been with its shallow idea of humanity is to at least lean more into its silliness, or to offer the option for it to be glossy entertainment that holds tight to its B-film roots. But the film is not even smart enough to play a little dumb, and so even the silliest, most gratuitous parts involving very cranky humans turning into killing machines are anti climatic and frankly boring.
Performances wise, as one would expect, Gina Rodriguez makes for a solid lead, always emotionally present and never overdoing it. Her performance is quickly followed by young actress, Ariana Greenblatt, who makes Matilda root able as she struggles to deal with new responsibilities.
While Shamier Anderson and Lucius Hoyos provide enough support. Sadly, in other roles, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Frances Fisher, Barry Pepper, Finn Jones and Gil Bellows are simply wasted. On the whole, ‘Awake’ is a frustrating lazy sci-fi thriller that has a hard time keeping you onboard.
Directed – Mark Raso
Rated – R
Run Time – 96 minutes