Thursday, June 10, 2021

Awake

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Security personnel Jill Adams (Gina Rodriguez) is estranged from her children, teenager Noah (Lucius Hoyos) and her little daughter Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt), who both live with their paternal grandmother Doris (Frances Fisher). Picking them up for bonding time one afternoon, Jill and the kids end up in a vehicular accident tossing their car into the river. Soon they find out that they are just one of the many victims as it becomes evident that a massive electrical outage has hit the entire country affecting all machines that run on microchips. Later that night satellites start falling from the sky and everyone discovers that they have lost the ability to sleep. Scientists go on a mad scramble to discover a cure, knowing all too well that sleep deprivation eventually leads to death. Witnessing how her daughter can actually sleep, Jill has to decide whether to bring her to the hub of her boss, psychiatrist Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), where one patient who can also sleep is already being experimented upon.

In apocalyptic narratives like this, a good balance between the personal and the universal must be achieved to keep your audience satisfied. Focus more on the universal and you end up alienating them with a storyline that is far too detached to be a communal experience. Concentrate on the personal and you risk indifference if your main characters are not relatable enough. Awake tips the balance towards the personal which makes the material a good acting piece, except that watching Rodriguez cry, hallucinate, and contort her face for more than an hour is one hell of a borefest.

Whether the director decided for the plot to be totally vague with regards to the big event is anybody’s guess. All that is ever mentioned, in passing, is how an alleged solar flare might have caused a shift in magnetic waves or something to that effect, which in turn messed up everyone’s body clocks. The screenplay doesn’t go any further than that. We can’t blame the lazy script, though. Perhaps it’s just that hard to come up with a plausible alibi which forced them to just focus on all the drama instead. Yes, that’s what Awake ended up being, a sappy melodrama about sleep-deprived individuals on the brink of death.

If anything, though, the central theme of sleep deprivation comes at a time when the world is indeed experiencing a global threat because of the pandemic. How many sleepless nights have we all gone through because of the uncertainty of it all, right? In this regard, the premise is interesting because it makes you wonder how important sleep really is. For most of us in the real world, it’s as easy as resting on our pillow at the end of an exhausting day. For the characters in this movie, they all got involuntary insomnia. It would have been more impressive had they delved more into the science instead of the drama.

As such, you end up watching a highly emotional survivalist story that gets old after the first 30 minutes. Okay, everyone is panicking! The world is devolving into chaos! This could probably be not so far detached from real-life should such a scenario occur, but one can argue that we watch films to escape from that reality, not be hounded by it. It is because of this that Awake comes across as a little too safe or ambiguous. For moviegoers who want a clear plot, that translates to a half-baked film lacking cohesion.

And don’t get us started with that “modem-reboot” twist. Oh, you can't sleep. Wait, let me unplug your life and then plug it again after ten seconds, shall we? It’s downright hilarious given the lack of explanation of what is really happening.

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