Starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Sam Keeley, Olwen Fouere, Cathy Belton
Directed by Rebecca Daly
Director Rebecca Daly’s full-feature debut opens up to a bewildering start as the eerie opening sequence introduces the viewers to Arlene (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), a sleepwalker since childhood who has just woken up beside a body of a young woman in the middle of the woods. One would think that with such a strong opening, Daly would be able to successfully provide the audience with a consistent ominous tone through out the entire film — and that she does. Regrettably, Daly focuses far too much on how her film should feel like rather than how it should be in a project that could have been a much talked about genre-bending film.
The Other Side of Sleep starts off strong when Arlene starts to question her nocturnal sleep habits that may or may not involve murder. The incident in the woods immediately makes Arlene think about her mother’s brutal death twenty years before, and it is then that Arlene is drawn to the young woman’s family like a moth to a flame. She befriends the grieving sister, falls for the young girl’s suspicious boyfriend and even connects with the inconsolable father who gives off a very creepy “Leland Palmer” vibe at times.
The solemn and detached Arlene also begins barricading herself in her small apartment and starts depriving herself of sleep (there is a killer out there after all), and the drowsier she gets, the more her real world and dream world begin to merge as she gets more and more obsessed with the dead girl’s family, who may or may not have been involved with her murder. A melodrama disguised as a horror film ensues.
The Other Side of Sleep offers one of the most patent depictions of early adulthood depression shown onscreen in the past few years. The film is instantly intriguing at first because of Daly’s gifted capability of presenting a great character study about an emotionally damaged young woman, and actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes gives a remarkable performance despite the fact it’s hard to connect or empathize with her plight since Arlene is so detached from reality.
Unfortunately, Daly fails to guide The Other Side of Sleep to the creepy world the grave and gloomy atmosphere suggests there is throughout the entire film and instead takes the movie and viewers to unwanted and unexplained extremes of behavior without the much needed scares.
Daly still achieves the woeful tone throughout — zombifying the grief-stricken characters aptly and using the damp and dark Irish locations to a spellbinding effect. Sadly, The Other Side of Sleep is a peculiar, chaotically arranged film that strives to be far more insightful than it really is.
Like a person who botched and forgot the ending of a rambling ghost story around a campfire, The Other Side of Sleep lures viewers in with its intriguing premise yet leaves so many unanswered questions and plot holes by the end of it. Much like Arlene, the film wanders around in a groggy state searching for meaning, and when it finally finds something to say, it’s far too late for anyone to actually care about what is going on.
2 1/2 out of 5