The Argentinian family drama “The Sleepwalkers” has a rather fitting title. The Paula Hernandez film shows how going through frustrating, dull day-to-day events can create a somnambulant, entrapped feeling, especially when close relatives impose such routines on someone. Although, one can sleepwalk through life for so long before the final straw suddenly snaps them out of the tedium and they rebel to fulfill suppressed internal needs.
In the case of Ana (Ornella D’Elia), that particular moment feels imminent. In addition to her sleepwalking condition, Ana must deal with her concerning mother, Luisa (Erica Rivas). There’s also her cousin Alejo (Rafael Federman), who gives her continuous sexual advances. Given how Ana’s a teenager, it’s no surprise she’s aching to increase her independence the way teens always hope to do. However, the two family figures in her life are still bringing her closer to a breaking point.
Thanks to the screenplay from writer/director Hernandez and Rivas’ performance, Luisa is still portrayed with plenty of profundities. As the mother strictly supervises her rebellious daughter, she quietly analyzes her own need to break free. With just her facial expressions, Rivas can characterize Luisa’s fragile emotional state. As for D’Elia, she impresses in equal measure as the angst-ridden Ana. D’Elia similarly lets her eyes provide insight into Ana’s tortured psyche.
Because Luisa is given plenty of development, it inadvertently becomes a form of empathy for Ana. Seeing Luisa undergo her own turmoil sheds some light on the usual façade that parents put for their children. As teenagers tread through the painful period known as adolescence, their parents try to put on a brave face to make it seem they don’t go through their own suffering. So, “The Sleepwalkers” expertly demonstrates the concealing masks that parents wear while simultaneously serving as a reminder that their children don’t have to feel alone in their internal conflict. In fact, it shows that parents and children can face whatever is thrown their way together.
Along with Rivas and D’Elia, the supporting actors do a fine job as well. Particularly, Federman, who portrays sly toxic masculinity in the form of persistent Alejo. Also, Marilu Marini impresses as Ana’s fiendishly honest grandmother.
That being said, it’s still the two lead actresses who carry the picture even when it takes a while for it to pick up steam. The film as a whole is solid, yet it moves at a slightly sluggish pace which will be a detriment for some viewers, who might think “The Sleepwalkers” lives up to its title in an unfortunate way.
However, the editing from Rosario Suarez being slow is likely the idea. The entire movie is about the struggle of living unconsciously. As one lives that feeling, it’s as if they lose the sense of time. Also, the lucid cinematography from Ivan Gierasinchuk gives the film’s look some slight middle ground. Gierasinchuk does an expert job at making it seem like Luisa and Ana are somehow caught between reality and dreaming even when it’s clear they’re both awake.
For those who don’t mind slow-paced features or simple family dramas, “The Sleepwalkers” could prove to be a rewarding experience. It’s a somewhat chaotic look at the struggles of adolescence. However, its portrait of a complex mother-daughter dynamic gives it bittersweet notions. When you’re a teenager, it’s easy to feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Those around you can certainly add to that pressure. But because parents feel similar pressure, life is not a tumultuous journey one must go through alone. [B]