Review: ‘Awake’

Gina Rodriguez Does Just Enough To Keep You Awake In Netflix's Newest Sci-Fi Drama

People choose to sacrifice sleep all the time. Whether to stay up for a night of fun or scrambling to finish a report – sleep gets pushed aside. Let’s face it, you can always nap the next day or go to bed earlier and easily catch up, right? Jill (Gina Rodriguez) finds out the hard way what life would be like without that option in Netflix’s newest sci-fi drama Awake. Jill is a former soldier and a widower with two children Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) and Noah (Lucius Hoyos). Jill’s mother in law Doris (Frances Fisher) has custody of the children as Jill is working security and trying to get her life back together. Jill has the children for an afternoon when the world changed in the blink of an eye. The three of them go for a drive and suddenly all electronics – including their car – stop working.

After having survived an accident, the family goes back to Doris’s. Jill can’t seem to fall asleep, but that could just be nerves from the accident. As she heads to work, it is immediately clear that something is amiss. The streets are packed at 6 AM and no one has slept. Jill’s old colleague Major Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) warns her of the dangers they are facing and lets her know of a compound the government has set up to try and find a cure. A lack of sleep is detrimental to the body and will eventually lead to disorientation, loss of motor functions, hallucinations, and death. Jill realizes that Matilda somehow was sleeping the night before. Jill immediately becomes aware of the dangers that this information puts Matilda in and vows to keep her safe.

Awake is directed by Mark Raso who also co-wrote the screenplay with Joseph Raso. Raso focuses on cinematography almost from the jump. He wastes no opportunity to try and introduce unique camera angles and framing throughout the film. Joseph and Mark make sure to highlight the effects of lack of sleep on the body. They do this in a variety of ways that successfully show the devastation happening. Not only from a physical perspective – bags under eyes, limbs shaking – but through the script. As the characters cognitive functions diminish, their decision making goes with it. They make numerous head scratching and questionable decisions, but at least a rationale for them exists. Raso also portrays this through distorting audio and visual effects that are incredibly effective.

Awake is not groundbreaking by any means and will most likely quickly fade from memory, but it is a fairly entertaining watch. The film doesn’t drag and the Rasos do a good job keeping a steady pace. The script has some moments of comic relief, but they are few and far between. Jill’s relationship with her children is at the heart of the film. While it isn’t fully explored or developed, there is enough there for you to care about what happens to the family. Rodriguez delivers a very strong performance driving the film forward. Some may find the premise of the film outlandish, but the Rasos manage to paint a realistic depiction of what society may look like on the brink of Armageddon. When the dust settles, Awake doesn’t pack as much of a punch as one would hope but may be worth a mindless watch.

Awake is available on Netflix here starting today, June 9th.