“Awake” is a violent picture and, unexpectedly, has sharper spiritual interests, slipping some Christian concepts into a harsh movie. Writers Joseph and Mark Raso (who also directs) get a charge out of dangerous situations in the feature, creating a sort of suburban mom passion play that has a decent pace and compellingly bizarre touches to keep the endeavor alert. Awake is an odd little curio that rests in a bizarre middle-ground, a few clicks away from either the feel-good Christianity of Breakthrough or the forced fetal-position response to Blindness. Either choice demands some shameless emotional intensity of brute force, which Awake doesn’t summon quite often enough in its sci-fi story of a world thrown into a sudden state of sleeplessness.
We follow a family, headed up by Jill (Gina Rodriguez), a troubled single mother who works in security and sells stolen pills on the side, struggling to keep her two semi-estranged kids safe as they travel across the US. What makes their predicament that much more perilous is that her daughter can still actually sleep, for reasons unknown, meaning that those around are eager to sacrifice and/or experiment on her. Their journey finds them bumping into characters played by actors who deserve so much more, from Frances Fisher to Barry Pepper to Shamier Anderson to, most depressingly, an understandably bored Jennifer Jason Leigh, as a possibly nefarious psychiatrist.
The film is best at invoking how swiftly fatalism can fall over someone. While Awake has no political inclination or subtext, it’s hard not to see the reflection of a present real-world fermata where sleep hasn’t been useful to a lot of people anyway. Awake, which was pitched before the pandemic, may not be an allegory for our perpetual hyper-awareness of pending doom. But it does embody ennui for how tin stars and military training could deliver us from the brink — which is to say not well if at all.
The concept of Awake is original and sound, but the execution from co-writer/director Mark Raso (from a story by Gregory Poirier and scribing alongside Joseph Raso) relies on one too many apocalyptic sub-genre tropes that slowly overtake that refreshment. It stars Gina Rodriguez as ex-soldier working-class mother Jill pulling hospital night shifts and stealing and selling zombie drugs to street buyers on the side. Her two children Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) and Noah (Finn Jones), live with their grandmother while Jill sorts out everything from financial problems to PTSD. Such living conditions no longer matter, as one day, while Jill drives the kids around, a worldwide power outage occurs that comes with a mysterious side effect of people no longer being able to fall asleep. The ones that are already unconscious, not limited to extreme circumstances such as comas, wake up on the spot.
The movie provides some character backstory but doesn’t inspect the central sleepless crisis too deeply, preferring to highlight acts of discovery with Murphy’s medical plans and Jill’s groggy battle with equally fatigued outsiders, creating an interesting acting challenge for the cast, offered hallucinations and physical weariness to play. The actual resolution of the story isn’t satisfying, but it does present baptismal imagery that some viewers might respond to more spiritually, with Raso trying to work in Christian ideas without giving up the coarseness of the effort. “Awake” has its issues with “Bird Box” -ing and cruelty, but the production pulls out of a few dramatic tailspins competently, and the general stress of the premise is felt throughout the viewing experience.
Final Score – [7/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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