This is the story of an unfortunate underachiever who is left with his niece after his even less fortunate sister abandons them. Unhappy with social services and the places they are forced to live, they take what little money they have to fund an aimless trip across the country until arriving at the home of his abusive father.
This film relies on the performances since the story is so utterly bleak at times that all the audience has to cling to sometimes is the recognition of the stars within it. Filling up the smaller roles are the likes of Woody Harrelson, playing the goofy friend, Dennis Hopper, who is devouring the scenery as the aforementioned abusive father, and Charlize Theron, who is greatly missed during most of the film for she delivers probably the most solid and engrossing performance as the troubled mother. Theron controls the first fifteen minutes then becomes nothing more than a reference for the better part of the proceeding film.
Nick Stahl brings a purely innocent sense of hope to his character, and to the story. Eventually I got the sense that I am watching a man who cannot swim trying to make it back to shore, which then makes said hope all the more depressing. He takes on not just his own troubles but his sister’s responsibilities as a single parent. As an alias, his niece begins referring to him as her father and as his role becomes just that, he slowly sacrifices his own life so that she (and in turn, his sister, her mother) can have a chance at a decent one.
Widescreen 1.78:1 with the option of viewing in Fullscreen. The blacks are a bit faded but it is often hard to tell in the grey, cold climate that sets most of it. Otherwise everything else seems fine.
Audio available in English and French while subtitles are available in English only
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. A largely adequate mix. Sometimes the dialogue can be a bit too faint which makes it completely lost if two characters talk quickly one after the other. On the other hand, the details in the background are well played in the surround speakers. Dripping water in a basement, ambient truck sounds outside of a motel, and other details such as that are clear and greatly help with the immersion.
A Mother’s Shame, A Family’s Pain: The Making of Sleepwalking: The title sums up much of the film. We see the stages of development and how strongly Theron felt about making this film (she was a producer along with being an actress in it). Oddly enough Annasophia Robb, who plays the daughter, comes off as the most arrogant in the interviews, but I guess compared to Dennis Hopper, who hasn’t really cared about anything for a decade or so, anyone could seem uptight.
Having been shot during winter in Saskatchewan, there are plenty of stories about how cold it was (which I always find amusing as a Canuck). Again, Hooper could not be bothered (nor could Harrelson for that matter). Hopper raised a good point that the film was aided by said cold because you can truly see it in the final footage. Perhaps this should be kept in mind as you read my comments on the Video and how cold and gray it appears, as a positive instead of a damper.
A trailer for the film is the only other feature.
Some seasoned actors helped make this a decent production, saving it from becoming a Hallmark movie with a depressing ending (although the latter comes down to point of view). Immensely emotional and well handled, this might not be chicken soup for the soul but it’s worth a watch if you’re not in desperate need to have your day brightened.