Led by Katherine Waterston and Michael Shannon’s performances, writer-director Meredith Danluck takes a fascinating approach to grieving by way of State Like Sleep.
Katherine Grand (Katherine Waterston) had relocated to the US following the death of her husband, Stefan Delvoe (Michiel Huisman). One year after the tragedy, Katherine learns that her mother suffered from a stroke. She flies to Brussels in order to visit her in the hospital. Because of all that had happened, Katherine had wanted to forget the life she once had in the city. The longer she stays, the more she learns things about Stefan that she didn’t know. It leads her to investigate his death in a way in which the police didn’t.
The investigation takes Katherine to Emile (Luke Evans) in seeing what he knows about his late friend. There’s also Edward (Michael Shannon), who she meets when he knocks on her door. Meanwhile, Stefan’s mother, Anneke (Julie Khaner), wants to vest control away from Katherine. Even though Stefan is dead, Anneke wants his money in order to pay debts and wants her name added to the bank account. There is so much tension between Katherine and Anneke that it is no wonder that the two wanted to relocate to New York!
Writer-director Meredith Danluck makes the decision to tell the story in a non-linear way. While this can be frustrating for filmgoers in trying to keep track of what’s present day and what happened a year ago, it’s what is best for the film. With Katherine having shorter hair in present day, one can at least tell what is what in that regard.
The wonderfully-acted performance from Waterston is what takes the film into noir territory. If the police aren’t going to do the job, why not take it upon yourself? This is exactly what Katherine does. She soon develops a chemistry with Edward that one doesn’t see coming after that initial impression.
Edward is such a different character from what people are used to seeing in Michael Shannon. There’s a sense of sweetness in watching his delivery that one didn’t get to see from him in The Shape of Water. In his first on-screen appearance, his character gives off a bad first impression. After seeing him talk to Katherine some more, Edward starts to come off as a caring man. One that somebody would want to be friends with!
The film marks the narrative feature debut from writer/director Meredith Danluck. While not entirely autobiographical, Danluck draws on personal experiences in telling the story. Grieving comes in all kinds of ways but for Danluck, she turned to writing the screenplay that became the basis for State Like Sleep. If writing a film is what one needs to do in order to process grieving, you do you!
A mixture of genres, State Like Sleep isn’t the typical crime drama.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Meredith Danluck
CAST: Katherine Waterston, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Michiel Huisman, and Mary Kay Place