Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Sleepwalker: Family Drama and Home Renovations
something problematic must have happened during Christine’s childhood. The somnambulism
is not such a big deal, but her penchant for awkward comments and compulsively
irresponsible behavior can be a real drag. Not surprisingly, she will be a
destabilizing influence when she pays a sudden visit to her half-sister in Mona
Fastvold’s The Sleepwalker (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
up with Christine was often difficult—and Kaia still has the scars to prove it.
Technically, they are burns, which are probably worse. As the model daughter,
Kaia has become an outward model of stability. Despite the remembrances of her half-sister
she carries in intimate places, Kaia has commenced a romantic relationship with
Andrew, a local construction worker. Together, they are renovating her
expatriate father’s modernist country house. They prefer to maintain their
quiet privacy, but that will not be happening this weekend.
she often does, Christine has recklessly bolted from her long-suffering fiancé,
Ira, who will catch up to her in the morning. A wealthy blue-blood, he
currently works as a UN Inspector. Considering how perceptive he is, it is easy
to see how the Iranian nuclear program advanced so far. For reasons that remain
baffling, he deduces a little sisterly togetherness will be good for Christine,
so they invite themselves to stay for the weekend. None of this sits well with Andrew,
the proletarian class warrior. It turns out the salt-of-the-earth worker also
did time for hitting his previous girlfriend. So it should be an awesome
weekend, especially when Christine starts doing highly inappropriate things in
front of Kaia and Andrew while in a somnambulist state.
actress-screenwriter Fastvold’s feature directorial debut is an English
language production in its entirety, but stylistically it feels very European.
The influence of Dogme 95 is inescapable, but while the film desperately wants
to be Festen, it misses quite wide of
the performances and execution are all pretty solid. As Kaia, Gitte Witt silently
stews like crockpot, while Stephanie Ellis’s Christine is a suitably hot mess.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is co-writer Brady Corbet, finding rewarding depth
and nuance in the ever-patient Ira. Unfortunately, Christopher Abbott’s Andrew
is largely a one-note resentful townie cliché. Still, the fundamental problem
is all their efforts are expended on behalf of a script that only delivers a
weak shrug for a payoff. We have seen this all before and we have seen it much
more sharply written, so during most of the film, we have to wait for the
characters to catch up with us.
Even with all the fictional renovations under
way, it still looks like a cool house, so at least Sleepwalker has good architecture. Fastvold’s vibe is strong, but
her narrative is weak. The cast tries hard, but their road map just won’t get
them very far. A misfire but not a complete dead loss, The Sleepwalker opens this Friday (11/21) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Sleepwalking Characters