I’ve never been a huge fan of artistic films, although I have to admit that Kubrick has some phenomenal titles. Still, I watch movies to escape reality…not to appreciate their value as art pieces. For this reason, I am on the fence about WAKEY WAKEY, an Australian thriller that was originally released in 2012. Although it has a great premise and solid acting, the film seems to focus more on the artistic appeal rather than the story.
If you are not familiar with WAKEY WAKEY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the film’s official website:
Josie (Laura Wheelwright) is a teenage girl on the cusp of her sexual awakening. Her confusion is heightened by her extreme sleep condition, which blurs her dreams into waking life. Forbidden from leaving the house, she’s long remained alone but for the supervision of her sister Samantha (Fabiana Weiner), for whom she yearns. But Samantha has a macabre fetish and a dark web of secrets.
While Josie sleeps, Samantha manipulates her body, making her the unwitting subject of her artistic obsessions of power, sex and death. Josie is the plaything in her ever-broadening cavalcade of sadistic fantasies that spiral towards destruction. To maintain her secret, Samantha uses Josie’s condition against her while she’s awake, further undermining her perception of reality. Josie must learn to trust her own perceptions or risk losing total control.
This film looks great from a visual standpoint. It is shot in black and white, which somehow heightens the sensory perception of the audience; I’m not sure why it works, but it does. Instead of vibrant colors, the black and white backdrop helps to convey the desolate feeling of the movie’s location. This, in turn, helps create an overall dour mood in which the story unfolds.
As mentioned above, WAKEY WAKEY boasts some great acting. Both Laura Wheelwright and Fabiana Weiner do a superb job in their roles. Although some might think playing a narcoleptic would be easy, there is a certain balance that an actor must achieve in order to pull it off; too much emphasis and the performance comes across as forced…and likewise, too little emphasis and it looks like a 3rd grade elementary play. But Wheelwright transitions from a waking state to a sudden sleeping state perfectly. Similarly, Weiner gives a convincing performance as a Goth sort who enjoys tormenting her sister with absurd pictures while the latter sleeps.
But the story in WAKEY WAKEY is too difficult to follow. I understand Josie is having a hard time trying to figure out if she is awake or asleep…but the audience shouldn’t have a hard time following, too. The scenes didn’t transition well, so there was no cohesion for a plot-line. I could have possibly missed the intention, but this is my interpretation of what I saw.
Because of these observations, I cannot recommend WAKEY WAKEY unless you are looking for an artistic piece to view. Director Adrian Goodman is obviously talented, however I’m not sure if his future films will be for me…unless he amps up the transparency of his stories. This film is available through a variety of outlets if you are interested.