If you’re up for something a bit weirder and mysterious than run-of-the-mill thrillers, Chasing Sleep is the movie for you. It’s also an opportunity to see Jeff Daniels in a much more demanding role. We all remember him from Dumb & Dumber, although after that movie he rarely appears in comedies. While we’re here, you could check out Imaginary Heroes and The Squid and the Whale. Both of these movies show just how talented and versatile an actor he is. And here he was simply phenomenal with another convincing performance.
Besides this, camera work is excellent bringing us closer to the mind of poor Ed Saxon, and his problems. This is a slow-burner with a suspenseful and engaging atmosphere. Usually, movies like this come off as pretentious and contrived but that was not the case here. I felt thoroughly invested both in the story and especially the characters. Or should I say character, as we will be following Jeff for most of the time.
Ed Saxon is a college professor at a local university, living with his beautiful wife an ordinary life. One day, after he prepared dinner for her, she does not show up at the usual time. A bit worried, Ed phones the police inquiring about the procedures that take place in these situations, still not reporting his wife as missing. From that moment on, things started more and more complicated.
I think what gave Chasing Sleep that fucked up vibe, and that sense of horror is the plausibility factor. I could totally imagine myself in the same situation doing very much the same things. And how I would deal with the rest of the plot, I hope I never find out. The closed environment also plays a part in creating this sense of unease and tension. Since we left conventional storytelling right at the start, you simply can’t tell where the story is going. Movies following characters struggling with insomnia always have a special place in my heart. Mostly because I’m also chasing sleep during most nights. Although I think that has become a choice at this time, but I don’t want to bore you with that.
You really have to be in the right mood for a movie like this. So, don’t rush into it, get ahold of a copy and think before you play it. For example, when Blade Runner 2049 I simply couldn’t finish it. I thought it was a dull, on-the-nose, and pretentious pile of rubbish. Of course, a couple of years later, I felt like I owed to the original to check it out again. And it fucking blew me away. The same thing happened with my French noir rabbit hole that started with Rififi.
Finally, Chasing Sleep is also one of those movies open to interpretation. It asks the viewer to think about the story filled with symbolism. Even the names of the characters mean something deeper. If you are looking for similar movies Donnie Darko and The Machinist are good choices.
Director: Michael Walker
Writer: Michael Walker
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Molly Price, Ben Shenkman, Gil Bellows, Julian McMahon, Guy Sanville, Dennis North
Fun Facts: Jeff Daniels is barefoot for the entire film.