Life can guide you in directions you never thought it would go. You might get an unexpected financial windfall, suffer an immense loss or fall in love with someone who’s the total opposite. Katherine, sadly, has to deal with all three of them which results in a very emotional and difficult life. Her journey takes her to dark places and painful situations.
This would the perfect starting point for a movie packed with emotions, mysterious scenes and enigmatic figures. It’s all present in the latest film from writer/director Meredith Danluck (“The Ride”, “North of South, West of East”) but at the same time, the elements aren’t fully there.
Katherine (Katherine Waterston) is working as a photographer and she comes in contact with a lot of famous clients and celebrities. Little did she know that she would marry a celebrity. She did and became the wife of actor Stefan (Michiel Huisman). The happy couple spend many years together but that comes abruptly to an end when Stefan is found dead.
According to the examination, it was suicide by an inflicted gunshot wound. While having to deal with the death of her husband, Katherine’s life is becoming darker when her mother falls ill. No matter how strong Katherine seems to be, those tragic events have an immense emotional impact on her. It gets even worse when she starts looking into Stefan’s death.
The deeper she digs, the more secrets are coming out. Her investigation leads her to a nightclub, meeting strangers such as Emile (Luke Evans) and there’s even a secret woman. Katherine’s suspicions about her husband’s death might (not) be confirmed. While struggling with this, she gets even more bad news as her mother her condition is declining.
Before losing herself completely, some light is being brought into her life in the form of her neighbour Edward (Michael Shannon). Will Katherine be able to solve her husband’s death and cope with her mum’s illness or will it become all too much for her?
A story about a lost woman who has to grief the (strange) death of her husband and who has to take care of her sick mother could result in a beautiful, emotional, dark and gripping movie. Those elements are only partially explored in this movie.
Firstly, there are some flaws in the story. Danluck’s screenplay lacks direction as it feels like the events happening in Katherine’s life are just random. There’s no explanation for them happening and we also don’t see the real reasons behind Katherine’s investigation. How did she know that her husband’s death might not be suicide and what are her motivations for looking into this?
The majority of this movie feels like Katherine is reliving the moments with her husband to try to find out what happened. Throughout the movie we become aware that Stefan’s death is indeed not as straightforward as initially thought. Sadly, the director doesn’t explore that mysterious element to the fullest.
Due to that ‘incomplete’ storyline, the actors in this film don’t get the full potential to show us their artistry. However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performances of the overall cast. The brightest star in this film is Waterston (“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”, “Mid90s“). Not only because she has the most screentime but also because she projects the emotions of Katherine enjoyable onto the audience. Whether it’s the pain, grief, determination, and love, we can feel it (sadly not as much as we hoped).
Her strongest performance is without a doubt the one in the mysterious and appealing scene with Evans as Emile. While Katherine is under the influence of drugs, Emile is telling her what his strange relationship with Stefan was. All this while trying to seduce Katherine. This results in a fascinating and hypnotizing scene. One explanation for that is the intriguing and charismatic performance of the platinum blonde Evans (“Anna“, “Beauty and the Beast“).
Huisman (“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”, “The Age of Adaline”) puts on a wonderful performance as the celebrated, caring but also aggressive and secretive star. Last but not least, there’s also Shannon (“The Shape of Water“, “12 Strong”) who’s lovely as the attentive and sweet Edward. It’s just a shame he has such a tiny part in this film.
“State Like Sleep” isn’t a bad film at all. We can see the (potential) talent both in front of the camera as well as behind. The story lacks some punch and direction but the acting performances make sure that you watch this film to the end.