There are so many things I feel I could say about this film, I’m almost scared to start in case it all comes out at once and just sounds nonsensical, so just let me begin by establishing: I LOVED this film!
It seems a rare treat that we see a film that is so naturally witty and real, without overcompensating in some way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a real fan of comedy in all it’s forms, from stand-ups and sketch shows, to dramedy (drama-comedy) and slapstick, I just love the genre. Even so it has to be admitted that lately there have been very few… what I’d call, quality comedies, and a lot of tasteless blue movies, but every now and then a real gem will come along and just catch you completely off-guard. SLEEPWALK WITH ME is one of THOSE films.
Based on a true story, written, directed by and starring Mike Birbiglia, the film is about Mike himself as he struggles through a period whereby he’s trying both to establish himself as a comic artist and find and express his true feelings about his relationship with girlfriend Abby. His desire to keep from hurting her stops him from ending the relationship, but his growing feelings of entrapment, as he’s pushed and pulled through the motions of co-habitation and engagement, manifest themselves in the form of Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD). Eventually culminating in him jumping from a second-story window in his sleep, a hilarious and ultimately dangerous moment, opening the audiences eyes slightly to the potential dangers of what had, until then, seemed quite an amusing and minor irritation.
The film’s a winner from start to finish, not only because it will have you laughing from the first 30-seconds (I’m not even exaggerating there) but also because it shines a light on the realities of life’s hardships. From the first few poorly attended and un-enthused comedy gigs that we see Mike perform, to his failing relationship with Abby. There’s actually a brilliant moment where Mike admits that he visited Abby, after their relationship had ended, and asked her why she’d put up with him for so many years. In answer she admits that she simply didn’t want to hurt him. A poignant moment in which we realize that Mike and Abby’s two lives were nearly joined for eternity, simply for the fact that they’d been too polite to break up with one another.
Irresistibly we will also end up looking back on similar situations in our own lives, and, at least privately, admit that like Abby and Mike, we were stupid to waste time on a relationship we knew was doomed from the beginning.
Part of the uniqueness of the film is the way in which it’s presented to us. Mike himself acts as the narrator, and the film begins with him getting into a car and introducing the story to us – all the time breaking the fourth-wall rule and conversing with us (as the audience) as if we were, by all means, sitting next to him and engaging in the conversation. A risky move that all to often seems forced and a little cheap, but works extremely well in this context; Mike’s easy interaction with the camera really draws us in and keeps our attention until the credits begin to roll. The supporting acting too is brilliant, especially Mike’s parents who I felt at times could have passed for a real married couple, so genuine was their portrayal of long-suffering resignation and comfort.
In all, this is just a brilliant film and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
SLEEPWALK WITH ME Review
A burgeoning stand-up comedian struggles with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore.