Cinema of Sleep could be done as a play since there are only three locations, and the cast is quite small. No doubt it was written this way to make it on a tiny budget. Kudos to St. Jules for pulling it off and having enough going on for a hotel room to carry 80% of the narrative. The one thing that didn’t really work is the characters of the two cops. I don’t think I can blame the actors, though, because their performances are mannered to the point of being over the top, and it was clearly a directorial choice. I think this was a sideways reference to Casablanca, which is mentioned as the greatest refugee movie ever. It may also be trying to serve another plot point that I won’t spoil, but whatever the intention, it just didn’t work.
There’s another character, Anthony’s neighbor at the motel, Frank, played by Jonas Chernick. He does as much as he can with the role, but he’s got a lot of strange dialogue that is cumbersome to get through. It all makes sense on a second viewing, but it is mostly weird and off-putting for the vast majority of people who will only see this once.
“…bold and inventive.”
I’ll be honest, given the low budget, the great performances of the two black actors, and the weirdness of the white actors, for a while, I thought this must have been filmed somewhere in Africa, or at least somewhere that the black talent pool is considerably deeper than the white one. But it turns out the African accents are just acting — this is a Canadian choice, and everything was a choice. What a world!
The bottom line is that Cinema of Sleep is worth a look for being bold and inventive. The psychological thriller aspects and strong lead performances will keep you hooked long enough to get to the deeper meaning behind everything, which will give you something else entirely to reflect on. That’s quite a neat trick.
Cinema of Sleep screened at the 2021 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
"…could be done as a play..."