I hate ragging on South African film, but lately they’ve been so awful. Sleeper’s Wake may be in English, but everything is so drab and dead, the language could have been zombie growls.
After an accident leaves a John Wraith a widower, he retreats to a bush lodge to find himself again. What he finds instead is another family that has suffered a tragedy and a young woman who acts out against her controlling father with rebellion and seduction.
Sleeper’s Wake might find some appeal with the thriller crowd, but the film lacks any real control and will leave viewers disappointed with its numerous flaws and untapped potential.
The Bottom Line
If awkwardness were the primary theme in Sleeper’s Wake, the film would make good on it – but it isn’t, and the film is lacking in most of the building blocks of storytelling and cinema, and given that it is based on a novel, I suspect that the plot would have been adapted to a more coherent degree.
What truly is missing is a competent director – all facets of the film seem to be aimless and impotent with the plot itself appearing vapid and unfulfilled, nothing of real significance ever occurs and the incredibly slow pacing just adds to that. The actors also appear to be on autopilot with dialogue being uttered with either the most stoic off murmurs or contemptible melodramatic outbursts.
Then there’s the sex scenes (notice the plural). As you can imagine I’ve had to sit through numerous sex scenes in many movies, and while I admire Miss Anstey rising above her sterile soap opera routes for a bare chested, butt-naked performance, the whole thing is just so bland that I can’t imagine sex being more boring. The whole idea of the forbidden fruit is for the encounter to be passionate and erotic, not the sort of routine that geriatric couples are reduced to in their decrepit states of infirmity.
It’s really a metaphor for the entire film: flaccid, drawn out, and disappointing. I will say that Sleeper’s Wake is photographed well and the cinematography is its primary strength, but the rest of the film cannot be overlooked due to pretty pictures. It must be said that the ending is absolutely hilarious and entirely counter-intuitive to the reaction that I’m sure director Barry Berk was going for – if anything, the end is what makes the film memorable.
As one of the first South African films of 2013, I can confidently say that we aren’t off to a good start. But where many other films fail because they’re just plain old terrible from the ground up, Sleeper’s Wake is poor because it lacks any and all passion, and that is the essence that was needed.