Sleep Test: Our Review of ‘Awake (2021)’

Posted in Movies, Netflix, What's Streaming? by - June 08, 2021
Sleep Test: Our Review of ‘Awake (2021)’

The citizens of the world have not agreed upon whether or not an apocalypse happened. This means that viewers don’t have a real life reference when post-apocalyptic scenarios show up on TV movies. Mark Raso’s Awake present similar elements of what we think happens during the apocalypse, as its protagonist Jill (Gina Rodriguez) inadvertently surrounds herself with chaos. But despite that chaos, she returns to work like nothing happened.

In fairness, Jill and the other characters around her don’t feel the apocalypse outright. They just noticed that all electronics are on the fritz. They don’t realize the gravity of the situation until a day later. Eventually, they realize that all but a few people can’t sleep. One of those few people happen to be her daughter Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt). Matilda’s talent makes her everyone else’s target.

This is basically like a few other apocalyptic films where a girl of color is humanity’s salvation. Here, scientists can figure out how to sleep like she does. But Jill has hesitations when it comes to putting Matilda as a test subject. There’s a lot of exposition here revealing Jill’s military past. She knows that the people running those sleep tests because she worked with them. One of those peoeple is Dr. Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman that Jill has a complex relationship with.

This movie is one of a kind in comparison to other examples within its subgenre. That uniqueness comes from its attempts at levity. One of those attempts involve Jill, Matilda and Jill’s son Noah (Lucius Hoyos) run into Dodge (Shamier Anderson), a person who escapes from incarceration. By the way, he’s part of what might bee the funniest prison break in movie history. He comes off as sympathetic in surprisingly layered ways. But that sympathy almost disappears when he admits to the family that he’s a flat earther in a digressive scene.

Awake emotional intentions also don’t stick the landing in scenes that it intends for viewers to take seriously. One of those scenes involve Jill and Matilda separating only for Dodge to reunite them. Matilda surrenders to the science/ military hub which feels excessive. Greenblatt does her best to pull that scene off. But she can only do so much with the material that the screenwriters give her.

A short cut that Awake takes involves its premise of having 97% of its characters experiencing sleep deprivation and are therefore dumber because of it. This makes Matilda the smartest person in the movie. And this feels like a lot of responsibility for a young character and actor to have. I hope she can play an intelligent character in a movie that’s as potentially smart as she is here.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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