by Hope Madden
There are so few things I enjoy more in this life than sleeping. Sleeping is the best. I love sleeping. This is one of the reasons director Mark Raso’s apocalyptic Awake got under my skin.
But it’s supposed to, after all. It’s not a comedy. It’s a spare, clever idea about some kind of celestial happening that throws off our hard wiring enough that we lose the ability to fall asleep. This power surge affects more than just our own circadian rhythms, though. It also shuts down all electric power, including car engines.
Jill (Gina Rodriguez) was tired already. She just finished the late shift as security at a local hospital when she picked her kids up for their day together—her son Noah (Lucius Hoyos) goes more reluctantly than her young daughter Mathilda (Ariana Greenblatt). By the time Jill understands what’s happening, she realizes the kind of danger her daughter is in—from religious zealots as well as government officials—because Mathilda can sleep.
So, there you have it. There’s a fight against the clock (the film outlines in great detail exactly how this will disorient and then eventually kill you) for this mother to figure out how her daughter will 1) survive the apocalypse and 2) continue to survive once everyone else is dead.
Rodriguez drives the film with a believable mix of savvy, grit and growing brain dysfunction. Several of the population-gone-mad set pieces are eerie and smart, although others are underdeveloped and unsatisfying.
Raso, working from a script he co-wrote with brother Joseph as well as Gregory Poirier, picks at one or two modern-day concerns but truly breaks new ground only rarely. Moments from The Mist, War of the Worlds, and just about every outbreak movie make their way into Jill’s family adventure. Borrowed as much of this is, it still comes together in a way that feels fairly fresh.
Support work from Barry Pepper, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Frances Fisher and Shamier Anderson offers the adventure shape and character while Rodriguez gives it a pulse. And some really heavy eyelids.