Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
SF Indie Fest ’13: The Other Side of Sleep
someone starts sleep-walking in the movies, you know a dead body will soon turn
up. That is about the only convention of
the psychological suspense genre followed in this Irish excursion into somnambulism. Mood trumps cheap thrills in Rebecca Daly’s The Other Side of Sleep (trailer here), which screens
during the 2013 San Francisco Independent Film Festival.
life kind of bites. It all goes back to
her early childhood when her mother mysteriously vanished. Since then, she has been plagued with periodic
bouts of sleepwalking. Recently, it has
started again in a bad way. Waking up in
her crummy bed-sit all scratched up and muddy, Arlene is distressed to discover
her mother’s bracelet is missing.
at her dreary factory job, Arlene subsequently learns a local woman about her
age but considerably more social has been murdered in the nearby woods. The crime resonates with her, stirring
memories of her mother’s disappearance. Following
her compulsions, Arlene befriends the dead girl’s sister Donna and does not
completely discourage the overtures of her bad boy boyfriend, upon whom most of
the community’s suspicions have fallen.
fans should understand upfront, the greatest moments of nervous trepidation in Sleep involve the proximity of Arlene’s
fingers to the factory’s power saw. To
be fair, they will make most viewers antsy, but overall the film is far removed
from Hitchcockian territory. Instead,
Daly is concerned with how deeply rooted grief and abandonment issues manifest
themselves over time. While it is an extreme
character study, Daly maintains a vibe of dream-like emotional detachment. Despite the fact a murder has occurred, few
dramatic stakes will present themselves over the course of the film.
Antonia Campbell-Hughes is quite impressive as Arlene. While her character is reserved to the point
of introverted, Campbell-Hughes powerfully conveys all the pain she carries
locked up inside. In fact, the entire
ensemble consistently hits the right notes as the bereft and down-trodden
Sleep, Daly became the first
Irishwoman filmmaker to screen a film in the Director’s Fortnight at
Cannes. Hopefully, such a prestigious
claim is a sufficient return on investment for the Irish Film Board, which
supported Sleep, because it is not
likely to do much to spur Irish tourism.
Indeed, Daly’s vision of provincial Ireland is decidedly grungy and
menacing, well served by cinematographer Suzie Lavelle’s eerily suggestive work.
With her feature debut, Daly shows a mastery of
atmosphere and scene-setting, but her storytelling skills are not at the same
level. The former are all well and good,
but the latter talent is what will sustain a filmmaker over a long career. An interesting but demanding start, The Other Side of Sleep should intrigue self-selecting
patrons when it screens this coming Friday (2/15) and the following Thursday
(2/22) at the Roxie Theatre as part of the 2013 SF Indie Fest.
Labels: Irish Cinema, SF Indie Fest '13