Arlene (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) wakes up in a wood beside a dead body and, thinking that she killed the girl while sleep walking, she deprives herself of sleep to save anyone else from getting hurt.
The Other Side of Sleep was highly praised at Cannes, but this is just the problem; it is a festival film. Director Rebecca Daly examines the impact that killing has on a small town and, in particular, Arlene, who wakes up beside the body. The film moves at a slow and languid pace and at no point is tension ever built. Arlene sleepwalks through life after forcing herself to stay awake and the film stumbles through its running time in a similar manner.
The audience learns little about the central character, other than she is a loner who is considered to be a bit of a weirdo by the people around her. Antonia Campbell-Hughes seems to be playing the character on just one note, until near the end of the film. Campbell-Hughes has an engaging face and is believable as a character who seems to drift through life, but there is not enough material given to flesh the character out and make her seem like a real person.
The film is well shot and looks pretty – particularly the opening scene in the woods – but is let down by the obvious lack of story. It would have been good to see the idea of sleeplessness and the effect it has on the body played with throughout the movie, but instead we get to see Arlene stumble through the movie, shunning all human contact. Fight Club and Insomnia played with the idea of forced wakefulness and this was a prime opportunity for Daly to further these ideas, but instead of this being a film about the character, it becomes a film about everyone bar her.
Arlene ends up becoming friends with the dead girl’s sister, but instead of this being an examination of guilt, it just smacks of Another Earth – a film that had a similar central character whose guilt came from a similar place.
The Other Side of Sleep is a great idea, but disappointingly realised. Arlene is not a character that the audience can easily relate to, and there are more mysteries created than solved. Rebecca Daly has created a film that will play well at festivals, but may struggle to find a wider audience.