Sleepwalker first impressions [no spoilers] #richardarmitage

This is first impressions, no revelations about the plot; longer review will follow once I watch it several more times. Bullet points:

  • The pace of this film is really meditative — it gets its tension from the inexorability of the way the plot moves forward, even if many elements are unexpected.
  • It has a very effective score that enhances both the meditative quality and the tension.
  • This is not the kind of movie I would normally choose to see, but although it has thriller / noir elements, it’s not a conventional thriller. It’s more of a meditation on the nature of reality or identity or perception.
  • This fell right into the kinds of things I enjoy thinking about in art in general — how do people construct their reality? But it was not only thought-provoking, it was also beautiful in a low color-palette kind of way. But also tense. And often moving.
  • The film does include some disturbing violence. It wasn’t shocking or gratuitous or pornographic like Pilgrimage but it is there. If you want to ask questions about the details, send me a message via the sidebar and I’ll give you a list. Mental health care professionals could potentially have strong issues with the film, depending on what they understand the plot to be about.
  • The pace of the film, the score, the nature of the script, and the cinematography definitely all quality this film as more “arthouse indie” than mass market thriller. I’m not surprised that it wasn’t picked up by a larger distributor.
  • Conceptually, the way the script / plot weaves in particular elements is deft and effective. It’s hard to explain this without discussing spoilers, but I found fascinating how elements from the very beginning of the film reappeared verbally and visually from time to time and then were drawn together at the end. Still, it’s not symbolically heavy-handed. I’m going to be thinking about this, particularly the key interpretive statements that appear about six minutes before the end, for quite a while.
  • I really liked the script and I can see what would have attracted Armitage to it. At the same time, those who described it as convoluted are correct. I’m not sure that any two people who saw this film would necessarily agree about what was happening.
  • The film often reminded me of Frozen, but it’s a better film than that. (There are visual and script similarities.)
  • Ahna O’Reilly is the lead and she’s fantastic. (Chloe Grace Moretz wishes she could act mental health “issues” this effectively.)
  • I didn’t realize who Haley Joe Osment was until the very end of the film.
  • Richard Armitage is the male lead, but he doesn’t really get heavily drawn into the plot until about the first third of the film is over.
  • I won’t weigh in on the topic of “good guy” or “bad guy,” but I will reiterate his own statement in interviews that Scott White is not what he seems to be. The film hints at this problem fairly aggressively both in glimpses and in terms of general tension / unease. In fact, no one is sure who they are in this film.
  • At this point Armitage still has the Crucible body, and we get some nice views of him in both formal and casual clothes as well as a few glimpses of him partially clothed.
  • There’s also a gorgeous, moving thumb shot. (Thank you, Mr. Lester!)
  • What’s interesting about this performance (again trying to avoid the “good guy” / “bad guy” discussion) is how Armitage manages to balance the moments where his character gives rise to unease, and those where he’s the explicit consoler.
  • The sex scenes in this film, while discreet and shot in low light, are definitely among the better ones in his oeuvre. There is a wall, but this is yet another way for an Armitage character to script sex, one that is somewhat unfamiliar. I was both moved and aroused and that combination doesn’t often happen for me in his explicit scenes — it’s usually one or the other.
  • My general feeling after seeing the film is: unsettled.

Summary: great performances from O’Reilly and Armitage; meditative pacing; complicated and at times disturbing plot.

~ by Servetus on October 10, 2017.

68 Responses to “Sleepwalker first impressions [no spoilers] #richardarmitage”

  1. Thank you, for your insightful critique. I will bear all this in mind when (if) it becomes available in the UK

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  2. Thanks for recording your first response. Sounds as if this is well-worth watching. Really hoping it becomes available soon.

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  3. Ditto. Thanks, Servetus. This has definitely whetted my appetite.

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    • I don’t know exactly which critics review stuff like this but it will be interesting to see if critics outside the horror film genre take it up.

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      • eeks By implication this sounds as if it is a horror film?

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        • I think it’s not a horror film. It’s not gory, it doesn’t rely on scaring the viewer for effect. It makes the viewer uncomfortable but not disgusted. It’s more like a thriller. However, the only press outlets I’ve seen commenting on the release so far are horror outlets. I’d been thinking that since “Nightingale” (which I have not seen) Lester should get some more critical notice for his other projects (“Nightingale” even got an NPR review).

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          • phew glad to hear that. And that is also the impression I had from the trailers – strong emphasis on psychology, so a psycho thriller.

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          • sounds like at least it is not a horror film in the traditional, main stream kind of way. Otoh the way you describe it there is very little main stream about it. I was feeling a bit meh about the whole thing but i think it’s more to do with my general limit on anxiety, existentially, mentally and all that. Every day brings more of it and more uncertainty and work is also more than a lot. It leave me with very little head space for more anxiety and more pondering and uncertainty. But i have been enjoying more political plays a lot, maybe because it’s sort of easier to tie into reality or something. I didn’t i find theatre hard to bear, quite the contrary. I had very little patience however with Pilgrimage. I don’t know where this will fall. At least it sounds well put together and not gratuitous in either subject or treatment thereof.
            And maybe there is a point about considering mental health and general balance in this crazy world and what it does to us. it’s sometimes hard to hold on to oneself and feel rational.
            Though this does not sound as if it pick up on general existential anxiety but more specifically to do with a particular individual story.
            Anyway, i just remembered i did enjoy Trance quite a bit and although that is much more traditional in many ways, it’s not quite so maybe i will enjoy this too.
            I’m finding myself on a sort of fruitless search with his recent work. I don’t quite know what i want from him but nothing seems to hit the mark and it is quite upsetting, especially when i go out there and other things do or have a profound impact. I want that from him and expecting it and being disappointed is very disconcerting. I am praying this is not another miss… fingers and toes crossed!

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            • I like what you write here, Hari!!!

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            • I know what you mean. Years ago I interviewed a fan named Jane who mentioned that a lot of fans had gone elsewhere not because they stopped liking him or thinking he was a talented artist, but because the level of project he was doing was so beneath his abilities and generally uninteresting. I think it’s unfortunate that with BOF and Pilgrimage we got the two worst of his indie projects first, and that BSt has disappointed so many. Anyway, Jane said, people leave the fandom because other actors are just doing so many better things.

              I think Sleepwalker is definitely not a film for the average filmgoer. I don’t know that it was profoundly impactful, but it did make me think. That said: Ahna O’Reilly is really the lead here and the film is “about” her character. I think we may have to face that unless something changes, he’s going to do his most impactful work on stage, with all the challenges that that involves for his very far-flung fandom.

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              • I know honest to G.d i felt guilty about it, at least where BOF and Pilgrimage was concerned. I don’t feel any guilt about any of the criticism i have made of BSt and frankly none of it lay at his feet anyway. It made me doubt a lot but then again every single time i sit in a theatre regardless of whether i enjoy it or not, and even more when i do, e is always, always very present in my mind. I always in a way, at least emotionally compare it to the Crucible or even to LLL. The weekly Roundtheatre emails still give me a jolt 🙂 Lucky i still have very few of the older things to catch up, slow on it i guess subconsciously. I loved watching him in Standring earlier this year 🙂 I have not moved on and it seems i will mostly likely not do so anytime soon 🙂 Since every time i step into a theatre it just reinforces my feelings towards him 🙂 But then again i don’t find it mutually exclusive, to enjoy other work, other actors’s work in his absence 🙂 I’m not going to stop watching stuff just because it’s not with him. It just makes me long for him even more. In some ways it makes the absence of his work more painful, which is why i am so grateful for the audiobooks, even the ones which i didn’t like quite as much, but i always get something out of them. I feel as long as i will enjoy theatre and there will be meaningful and good theatre to watch i will always feel that bond to him and it will always be strengthened by the experience, even through his absence. I’m really glad it is the case 🙂 I don’t think if one stops being a fan or stops following because the work is not interesting it’s necessarily sad, I mean when you move on you do it because you decide to do so, if you didn’t want to you wouldn’t, if that makes any sense. I’m happy not to move on at all, even if the wait can get quite painful sometimes and the absence is frustrating or hurts. Maybe i’m a masochist that way LOL (but i don’t think so, i really enjoy the theatre deeply and i know it’s always thanks to him in part at least )

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                • Yeah, I don’t think most people would shun his work — it’s more a question of becoming less interested in following it on a daily level because for long stretches there’s nothing to talk about. I do think there’s a sense in which the daily cultivation of a crush fortifies the crush. If the crush becomes boring or too thin to sustain a daily cultivation, then one looks for other objects, at least potentially. (This is what I’ve observed in others anyway; it doesn’t seem to be true of me in the same way.)

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                  • 🙂 thank you!
                    Je vais régulièrement ailleurs voir ce que d’autres acteurs de qualité ont à proposer, mais revient inexorablement jeter un coup d’ oeil aux nouveaux projets aboutis de Richard Armitage, espérant une réelle exaltation qui pour l’instant me laisse orpheline.

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              • 🙂

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            • 🙂

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  4. Thanks for sharing your impressions. This sounds really intriguing. I’m excited! Hopefully a Canadian release will happen soon.

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  5. When you said it reminded you of Frozen, my first thought was of the animated film featuring Elsa and Anna (very popular with the preschool set).

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  6. and thanks for sharing your impressions! definitely more interested

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    • This is way more worth seeing than either Pilgrimage or Brain on Fire.

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      • i do trust your judgement on it 🙂 and hopefully since it’s streaming it will make it’s way to UK platforms soon, i don’t see why not, in this connected world geographically limited streaming really makes no sense..

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        • I suppose with this particular distributor you have someone who just doesn’t have the legal / technical expertise for international markets. A bigger distributor would be different, no doubt.

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  7. First: Wonder why the director stays out of all publicity work here!!! Very weird.
    Somehow I’m pretty sure RA wasn’t distinctly aware or really didn’t expect, that his move to America, and working for the market there, meant that all the TV/films he has done end up being mainly available in the US only (for quite a while at least). I think it’s rather awful for him that “Daniel Miller” still hasn’t arrived in the UK.

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    • I have the impression that his career went elsewhere and this project became an afterthought.

      It’s just plain bizarre that BSt hasn’t been seen legally in the UK. There’s nothing that explains it to me.

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      • Other than epix thinks s1 is good enough and a good fit with audience tastes here and us trying to sell it in first window ie linear channels. Ican see them plugging it to Sky where most U.S. series sit. Last year there was no chance for it to compete with other material just not good enough. Not while Broadchurch and Line if duty were around. But this year is a bit of a different story. There’s a bit if a dip in interesting good stuff so it might get bought.. It would be a good gap filler right now for example But we’ll see. It’s the only reason why they’ve held off Netflix or Amazon here

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        • Somewhat off topic for a moment….:

          Not sure BSt would be a gap filler for a large audience here in UK tbh. I got a chance to watch it while travelling through Germany last month thanks to Netflix.

          I think if I hadn’t read everything on here and wanted to make up my own mind about it, I wouldn’t have bothered to continue after episode 3. You can tell that they many different directors with slightly different visions for the plot, also the characters never got any depths that allowed me to empathise with them. Even good editing can fix that. I loved the city shots especially since I was also in Berlin at the time. Rhys’ and Leland’s characters was just plain annoying at times.

          Spooks e.g. I found really engaging back then – the pace, the stories, the characters. BSt, on the other hand, whilst only following one storyline through the whole series, tried too hard to stay on top of current politics, tried to have a good pace going, but because it was only one storyline throughout (issue really also is here having different directors for the episodes, that scenario is lot easier if you have only one story per episode like Spooks) it ended up feeling off, not like a story well told. I hope they changed that approach for season 2

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          • iPad jumble… lost my glasses too 🤦‍♀️… editing can’t fix those issues re plot/too many different directors.

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          • I fully agree, i would have never watched past ep2 if RA wasn’t in it. It was too bad that actually there were some good episodes in the middle. But however current and whatever the plot you can’t make audiences stick if they are not invested in the characters and that was where it was worst at. I too hope S2 will be better. I also don’t think if it was a TV series here it would have gotten recommissioned for a 2nd series. I guess there is so much choice now between linear TV here and SVOD like Netflix that there is always something to watch. (not in my case but i’m not in line with average TV viewing). Which is why i am irritated with it i think, because it could have been my thing. I don’t think different directors is always an issue, Dr Who also does it but it is as you pointed out much more an issue when you have one story line throughout and you need continuity. I liked the eps made by the Italian director best. And yes there were plenty good reasons why Spooks went on for 10 series 🙂
            Well, there is plenty of good stuff being made for TV so one can only hope that something good will come his way eventually.

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          • I’m also not the biggest fan of the ‘writers room’ model; i think even if they take much longer to cook and finish single writer stories are more consistent, have more depth, better consistency etc. But there are not that many writers who can pull that off and the demand for content is obviously great.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your impressions in such detail with more to come. The film sounds interesting and thought-provoking and those two things alone make it worth seeing. I smiled with your description of his “Proctor” body. It seems he has downsized his physique for so long, I am looking forward to seeing it the way it was in the play. I miss the larger version of himself.

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  9. […] For another quick assessment of the film, see here at Me and Richard […]

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  10. I have been so looking forward to this movie. I have always enjoyed movies of psychological problems more than a lot of blatant physical drama.One of the reasons I always enjoyed Alfred Hitchcock. I do not like gore or violence in extreme and hopefully this will feed some part of me that has not been satisfied with RA’s latest works. I have not enjoyed him in a role since Porter. Daniel so far has not come off as a very satisfying character and am hoping S2 will bring him out.

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  11. Just checking my email and my notice from Amazon is in. I bought Sleepwalker and I just saw it is available for viewing now. So I will probably view it later. So looking forward to seeing this.

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  12. Intriguing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts without spoilers.
    I like the comment that no one is sure who they are in this film. That aptly describes the complexity of human identity.

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    • one of the things that’s interesting about the script is the techniques the characters (esp Ahna O’Reilly) use to establish who someone is.

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  13. Thank you for your thoughts. And thank you too Hariclea for yours’, they resonated with me…. …nothing seems to hit the mark and it is quite upsetting, especially when i go out there and other things do or have a profound impact. I want that from him and expecting it and being disappointed is very disconcerting. I am praying this is not another miss…
    I’m still hanging in here, even though lack of theatre and viewing opportunities in Australia can be added to the frustration of being an avid fan of the man and his talent but of his projects, not so much. If he has made a move back to the UK, I’m happy about that. Imho it just feels like a better fit for him. It may be a smaller pond, but I doubt he would lack for fulfilling stage, screen and audio work.

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    • If he wants to do more stage I suspect England’s the place (as much as it worries me — how often can I reasonably afford to visit England?).

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  14. Does anyone know if the movie is accessible in Canada?

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  15. I loved it. It stands up to scrutiny the more I think about it. I like psychological thrillers but they are tricky to present on screen. This was deftly handled.

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    • I thought it really effectively caught two things about dream states — the feeling that one can have that things “almost” make sense and one just has to keep on dreaming to grasp them fully, and the way that horrible things can happen almost without impunity, i.e., they are frightening but they also lack consequences.

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  16. I have watched everything he has done including the NY play and the Crucible online. I am often disappointed in the material he is given but I watch anyway because he is in it. Brain on Fire was low point for both the material and his acting to me. I agree Pilgrimage and this movie are the best of the independent movies he has done. I thought he was very good in Pilgrimage. I do think he is doing the best with role in this one and I did think this movie was interesting and was a good watch.

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  17. Watched it last night. Can’t wait to read more of your thoughts because just as I thought the ending made sense, it didn’t and totally threw me for a loop! Still enjoyed the movie and will re-watch it.

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    • I’m not sure that a unitary ending was intended. Or at least, the way perspectives kept switching undermined my confidence that there was one authoritative because real perspective from which we were supposed to be observing the action.

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