Film: Chasing Sleep
Director: Michael Walker
Writer: Michael Walker
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Molly Price and Ben Shenkman
This film is an interesting look at descending into madness. The official synopsis for this film is a college professor wakes up to find his wife has not returned home, then struggles to understand her disappearance.
A film like this is actually one that hits on a lot of things that I really like to see. The first would be descent into madness. The film begins with Ed Saxon (Jeff Daniels) waking up in the early evening. His wife isn’t home and he she was supposed to be right after school, where she works. He was going to cook her dinner. He calls around to her friends and then finally calls the police. It then moves into something else I really like to see on film, sleep depravation. I’ve had some bouts with insomnia and let me tell you, if you haven’t it is horrible. It feels like you are going crazy. The film though presents it with Ed is losing long stretches of time. He thinks he is doing things during this stretches, but it could be that he is actually falling asleep.
There are some disturbing images that he is sees, but we don’t know if they are really there or just something he thinks is there. As everything goes on, Ed learns some secrets about his wife. One of which is that she is having an affair with a coworker, George (Julian McMahon). A secret diary is found and it reveals a lot to Ed. During all this a student, Sadie (Emily Bergl), is checking on him. The police are led by Detective Derm (Gil Bellows) and are also constantly paying him a visit.
Now I do like all of these aspects to the film, I did have some issues with the pacing though. The film had some issues with building tension for me and I found myself bored at times. There are things that need to be paid attention to, which help to develop this story. The one thing I will point out for sure, is the use of pharmaceuticals in the film. I did find the ending of the film to be anticlimactic and I think a lot of that goes to not enough tension being built to it.
This film is really acting driven though. I do think that Daniels was great in his role. As he is losing it, you get the feeling that he is torn. I also got the feeling that he isn’t in control of his own life and really just moving along through it. There is an aspect where he thinks he is a failure and it is ruining his life. Bellows was good as the detective. He surprisingly comes off as neutral, wanting to help, but as more is revealed, becomes more suspicious. I thought that was strong. Molly Price appears as a friend of Ed’s wife, she has a small role, but was good. I thought Bergl and McMahon were good in their roles as well.
As for effects for this film, there aren’t a lot. Something interesting is that this film came out right at the end of the floating heads era. This one doesn’t really fall into that category though. I mean the poster does have Daniels’ head on it, but he is much older than the usual cast for those types of films. I bring this up as the effects in the film are practical. There is a scene in the bathtub with a creature. It doesn’t look great, but it wasn’t done with CGI. The blood in the film did look good though.
The soundtrack of the film didn’t stand out to me. I won’t mark the film down for this as it also didn’t take me out of the film, I just don’t really recall it. None of the scenes really ever got my tension up in the film so it didn’t help as much as it could have for sure.
Now with that said, this film is slightly above average in my opinion. It does some good things that I really enjoy in films. I like the concepts of descending into madness and sleep depravation. I also didn’t mind the concept of overusing pharmaceuticals as this is a problem that is still relevant today. There are issues with the editing and the pacing of the film though. It never really builds the necessary tension and the ending is anticlimactic. The acting is strong. There aren’t much in the way of effects and what little was used were practical. The soundtrack doesn’t really hurt or help the film, as it doesn’t stand out and doesn’t really help to build the tension for the scenes. I think this film had some good aspects to make it above average, but it missed the mark on a lot.
My Rating: 6 out of 10