"Why don't you get some sleep?"
Mark Raso's Awake sees the world enter into a state of chaos and hysteria as an electromagnetic event strips humanity of its ability to sleep. With insomnia running rabid and the fatal effects disrupting society's simplest movements, there is an understood race against the clock to save the human race.
Gina Rodriguez stars as Jill, a retired soldier and single mom struggling to stay afloat as she works to improve her relationships with her kids. She is driving home with her family when the event occurs, sending her car off the road, headfirst into a lake.
The sequence, beginning with a feeling of curiosity and intrigue, unfolds quickly. As a result, viewers do not feel the pressure of the moment as the car sinks fast, its three inhabitants seemingly making it out safely. But once the camera brings us to the surface, we notice that Jill's daughter Matilda is lying on the bank, unconscious and not breathing.
How she got there, joined by two dry-clothed men in uniform, is one of the many unknowns of the film. It brings to light glaring issues involving the lack of character and story detail.
As the effects of the event begin to play out, the survivors almost immediately see the correlation between the outage and their inability to sleep. While I applaud the film's attention to the science, it's hard not to laugh at the unrealistic pacing on display. Even with acknowledging the apparent sense of urgency, the dots are connected at warp speed, depriving viewers of the mandatory moment of discovery.
This repeatedly occurs throughout the film as the story plays out like chapters, each one introducing a new conflict that is ultimately handled and forgotten within minutes. The same goes for supporting characters, most of which are introduced, dealt with, and then disregarded as our family of three voyages to a supposed bunker where Matilda, who can sleep, possibly holds the key to humanity's future.
Naturally, like with any other post-apocalyptic story, humans become savages, preying on one another as the effects of no sleep wage heavily on their habitual actions, turning them ruthless as they yearn for some form of relief. An encounter at a church is easily the film's strongest segment, marking the only time that Raso allows the moment to linger, granting viewers the chance to process and grow uncomfortable with the scene's players.
Countless more opportunities present themselves, but we are too concerned with the family reaching the bunker to allow thoughts and emotions to fester. So instead, these moments pass undeveloped and underutilized, providing merely a glimpse at how strong Awake could have been.
Present in almost every scene, Rodriguez turns in a decent enough performance; however, she cannot entirely counteract the lazy, one-dimensional source material. When the family reaches the bunker, the third act proves both sluggish and uninspiring. The solution, predictable since the onset, is cliche and tiresome. Even Jennifer Jason Lee's turn as a respected sleep expert is bland, her demise uneventful. Fortunately for her, she wasn't around for the finale, which, entirely on-brand for the film, was dense and forgettable.
*This film is streaming globally on Netflix.