Dreams and nightmares in The Other Side of Sleep
by Domenico La Porta
14/05/2011 - There was an drowsy atmosphere in the Directors’ Fortnight with Rebecca Daly’s feature debut The Other Side of Sleep [trailer]. The Irish director slowly disperses elements of tragedy at the heart of a thriller adapted to the rhythm of her main character Arlene, a chronic sleepwalker, played by Antonia Campbell-Hughes.
Arlene is a young, lonely soul who works in a remote factory in the Irish Midlands. She wakes up one morning in the forest, lying next to a dead girl. As the police start investigating, Arlene is drawn to the dead girl’s family, but must also battle with her nighttime wanderings, which she cannot control.
The Other Side Of Sleep plays with viewers’ expectations, shelving the rhythm of the classic thriller. The director takes her time in creating an atmosphere similar to Gilles Marchand’s Who Killed Bambi and the Danish series The Killing, with a murder story suffocated in the maze of a small town with no lack of suspects.
Daly, who also wrote the script, did not conceive Arlene as a detective in the making. It is the similarities of the murder of the mother she never knew that compels Arlene to immerse herself in an intrigue that is deliberately slackened to the extreme. Each encounter brings answers that are only ambiguous and subject to interpretation.
Furthermore, the threat of the murderer is gradually relegated to the background as Arlene deprives herself of sleep and uses all kinds of strategies to restrict her nighttime movements. The young woman becomes a threat to herself, but maintains an undemonstrative apathy that complicates the narrative work.
Working with very little, Daly set herself the difficult task of infusing the film with a lot of meaning, and it’s there that her strong sense of direction comes through. Each frame is meticulously composed, to express that which Arlene tries to repress: emotion.
For a debut film, Daly creates a heavy atmosphere that deliberately avoids any possibility of suspense. The narcoleptic rhythm of The Other Side Of Sleep is in perfect harmony with its subject, which renders the film unique and very promising.
(Translated from French)