After her actor husband kills himself in nebulous circumstances, a photographer grieves then comes back to where they lived to figure out what happened before his suicide and perhaps why he killed himself.
Written and directed by Meredith Danluck, State Like Sleep is an exploration of marriage, grief, guilt, and learning to let go and move on. Here the lead of Katherine is a world renowned photographer who married a famous European actor who is just piercing the film world following years on a soap opera before he ends up killing himself. Their relationship was far from perfect, but the love was there. The film shows this couple from a few different angles, giving each of them a voice up until the suicide while still keeping Katherine as the clear lead no matter what. Once he passes, the film becomes about her, her grief, her guilt, what she tries to do to alleviate both and how she learns to cope and even tries to find some truth in the mess of secrets and occasional backstabbing. The way the story is built and brought to the screen is what makes State Like Sleep more interesting than a simple story of a grieving widow with a bit of a mystery to it. Here, she is her own person, with her life, dreams, wants, needs, completely outside of her husband and his career. She’s a character that comes off cold at first and the more the movie advances, the warmer she becomes, the more human she is, and the more the viewer can empathize with her. The film does great work of getting her to be a fully fleshed person and one to care about.
The film’s lead is played by Katherine Waterston who creates a character that is complete and feels human in how she reacts to the many things thrown her way. She gives a nuanced, subtle performance that works great with the situation and the way her character goes through her grief. Waterston is the central character and the central performance and she is surrounded by a great cast including Michiel Huisman playing her husband in the start of the film and in memories/flashbacks, Michael Shannon playing a man crucial to her getting out of her grief slowly, Luke Evans playing a man important to her husband’s story, and a slew of supporting cast who all were clearly carefully chosen for their parts as they all perform well to great in their respective roles.
The film’s cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt gives the film a somber ton for most of it, except for certain scenes which are bright, white, and almost sterile. The film gains immensely from its imagery and the care and attention put in the cinematography, giving it a darkly lush film that takes the viewer in and wraps them up in its arms to go along for the ride. The images match the mood, the atmosphere they create is perfect for how the film evolves.
State Like Sleep is a stunning film with a story that gets into the mind and stick around a while with images that work perfectly. Katherine Waterston is great in the lead and takes the viewer on a controlled emotional journey they will keep thinking about for a while.