FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET SEEN AWAKE, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW
Netflix’s new original film, Awake is an odd duck, to say the least. This is a film where the character’s actions are so unprovoked and random, that there were times it felt like I was watching Nicholas Cage stealing a little girl’s bicycle in “The Wicker Man”, all over again. And just like that wonderfully bad movie, there are some pleasures to be had in Awake’s zaniness. But, unfortunately, the film takes itself far too seriously and in the end, becomes a bit of a slog.
WHAT IS AWAKE ALL ABOUT?
The film follows Jill (Gina Rodriguez) a former soldier who has lost custody of her kids (Ariana Greenblatt and Lucius Hoyos) and is doing everything in her power to get them back. One day, a global event occurs where all electronics are wiped out and people lose the ability to sleep. Everyone except her daughter, Matilda. Jill takes her kids and tries to keep them safe from the chaos of people losing their minds. During all of this madness, she teaches her daughter how to live on her own, in fear that Matilda will be the only survivor of this catastrophe.
IS JILL A CHARACTER WE CAN ROOT FOR?
Awake starts out well enough. The family dynamics are laid out on the line quickly, and their circumstances add a layer of intrigue. Jill is a relatable character because she is a flawed one, yet her love for her children rings true in every scene. Rodriguez is one of the finest performers working today and she adds so many nuances to this character that could have been lost in-between the lines of the screenplay. She balances strength and grit, with the empathy and compassion of a mother’s love, to a tee. It’s just a shame that this film doesn’t do Rodriguez any favors.
HOW CRAZY IS THIS FILM, REALLY?
As people start to realize that they cannot sleep, Awake devolves into utter lunacy. Instead of having there be a progression into madness, all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, everyone has just become asinine. If the film had taken its time to show the first steps of realization and anxiety of the situation, Awake would have felt much more refined. What we get in the final product, is a slew of arbitrary characters acting insane. They are saying and doing things that make little sense, and so there is just something about Awake that feels off.
As an example, during one of the first days of this crisis, there is a scene in a church where Matilda is taken to be kept safe. In these moments, a police officer acts out of aggression in an incomprehensible way that will not be spoiled here. But, his actions do not match up to the timeline of what is going on because they have just found out that they can’t sleep. Awake is full of these ham-fisted moments that make it feel like little thought was actually put into it.
HOW ARE THE PRODUCTION VALUES?
There is also something about Awake, that almost feels a bit like a Made-for-TV movie. And that isn’t always a bad thing, but here you can tell where the budget got in the way of the vision. The acting, at times, can feel all over the place. Some people are overacting, while other performers seem like they have zero energy. Set pieces seem like they were supposed to be an epic spectacle, and then go off with a whimper. The writing feels as if it didn’t have enough time to organically evolve. Keeping that in mind, this is why Awake would have worked so much better as a limited series. The characters would have had time to breathe, the progression of the plot and the world-building would have come off more authentic and the Made-for-TV feel would have worked in its favor, rather than against it.
IS AWAKE STILL ENJOYABLE?
As brought up earlier in the review, none of this film adds up to anything that feels cohesive or comprehensible, though it is still enjoyable at times. The ever-growing relationship between Jill and her children adds real stakes. Even if everything happening around them is sheer nonsense, you are still invested in their well-being because you care about these characters. There are also two set pieces; both of which involve the family in a vehicle, that are impressively shot and add real tension to the film, even for just a moment.
When all is said and done, Awake is anther example of a really cool concept, let down by its execution. The film lacks any sort of subtlety or depth to take this premise and let it flourish. Maybe as time passes, this will be a film that will be remembered in a so-bad-it’s-good type-of-way. For now, however, Awake is dead-on-arrival.
Awake premieres on Netflix, Wednesday June 9th.
For more on Netflix, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.