Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Talking Tribeca: State Like Sleep

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

State Like Sleep
Directed by Meredith Danluck
U.S. Narrative Competition

Losing a loved one is difficult for anyone, and knowing that it’s coming ahead of time due to an illness doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. Having time to prepare can be helpful simply because the act of mourning is an unthinkable one that makes important decisions and moving forward all the more traumatic. Losing someone without any notice and, worse, without any explanation can be utterly devastating, and many people in a situation where their link to a certain world has been cut off by that person’s untimely demise choose to cut themselves off from it entirely, seeking comfort anywhere else in a new life.

When Belgian actor Stefan Delvoe (Michiel Huisman) dies of an apparent suicide in his Brussels loft, his American wife Katherine (Katherine Waterston) leaves to pursue her photography abroad. A year after his death, she returns to the city when her mother (Mary Kay Place) is hospitalized. As Stefan’s mother pressures her to clean her things out of the loft, she begins to dig deeper into what led her husband to cut their rocky marriage short in a far more finite way than divorce, meeting her husband’s business associate Emil (Luke Evans) and a visiting American (Michael Shannon) staying in her hotel along the way.

This is a film that is indisputably heavy on intrigue. Its sequence of events is not depicted in a narrative way, with Katherine’s short hair helping to distinguish those scenes which occur after Stefan’s death. The vast loft filled only with empty beer bottles and remnants of an occasionally happy life serves as a fitting setting for many of Katherine’s recollections about her past as she discovers more and more of what her husband did in his time away from her and the cameras. What Katherine expects to find that will provide her some satisfaction is unclear, and her chance encounter with Edward is a fleeting distraction that hardly seems like it will become permanent either.

Waterston, who stole scenes in supporting roles in “Inherent Vice” and “Steve Jobs,” delivers a quiet and generally unpleasant performance, making Katherine hard to like and almost uninterested in attaining any sort of happiness. Shannon is dependable in a role that doesn’t offer him much to do, and Huisman, an alumnus of “Orphan Black,” delivers the film’s most layered and worthwhile performance, enhancing this flawed superstar as a complex character. However much Katherine may want to dig, there’s just not much to find here, making this film a thoroughly underwhelming experience, following her down an off-putting rabbit hole to nowhere, in search of answers that just don’t need to be found.


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