Shut Eye Image

Shut Eye

By Alan Ng | November 25, 2022

The older we get, the harder it becomes to connect with others, let alone the world around us. Writer-director Tom Levesque’s feature film, Shut Eye, explores the adverse effects isolation has had on us as a society.

Sierra (Millie Van Kol) is a young woman lost in life. She lives alone in her apartment and suffers from severe insomnia. To make matters worse, she’s become far more reclusive after a failed online meetup, a bully of a neighbor, and a lackluster dance performance during an open-mic event. Ironically she works on the street collecting email addresses for an environmental non-profit but connecting with strangers is not her forte.

One day at work, Sierra experiences a panic attack, and her supervisor demands that she gets help. During her check-up, Sierra tells her doctor about her insomnia. As she focuses on the AC vent’s soothing sound, Sierra falls asleep for three hours. The doctor tells her that these sounds may be the key to helping her sleep and suggests that she find ASMR channels to find what works. Heeding this advice, Sierra goes through a litany of ASMR videos of pouring coffee and eating chicken until she comes across the Kookie_ASMR Channel streaming live. Kookie (Sarah May) softly gives words of affirmation, and Kookie thanks her for joining the stream. So enamored with Kookie’s presence, Sierra falls fast asleep.

“…Kookie thanks her for joining the stream. So enamored with Kookie’s presence, Sierra falls fast asleep.”

From here, Shut Eye becomes about the socially awkward Sierra finally making a connection with another soul online. Quickly she becomes obsessed with Kookie, AKA Kate, by meeting her in public and missing a few (a lot) social signals along the way. Sierra’s obsession with Kate turns this new relationship into something more than it is. Props need to go to New Zealander Tom Levesque for getting a lot of emotion out of the small, intimate narrative. He’s able to play with Sierra’s need for friendship, deep friendship, and the desperate length she takes with an online streamer in Kate. Obsession is the correct descriptor, but thankfully never goes the Single White Female route.

The film is not necessarily a new or original idea, but the plot feels authentic and grounded. In other words, it hasn’t been insanely glamorized by Hollywood and gives us a fresh perspective from Down Under. Its success falls squarely on Millie Van Kol’s performance. It’s not easy to play low-energy characters in any medium. Van Kol has an engaging screen presence while holding true to the character as an introverted recluse. Sierra is constantly being molded and changed every time she puts herself out there in public.

I should also mention that this movie about ASMR doesn’t overplay its hand. The director brings in sounds from everyday life and amplifies them as almost part of the soundtrack. In particular, the scene in the laundromat becomes a perfect moment of solitude for Sierra.

My favorite movies are the ones that shine a light on the human condition, particularly humans living in society’s shadows. Shut Eye gives voice to the people we work with daily but never knew existed. It’s stories like this that make indie dramas far superior to anything the big studios can offer. They’re authentic and down to earth.

For screening information, visit the Shut Eye Facebook page.

Shut Eye (2022)

Directed and Written: Tom Levesque

Starring: Millie Van Kol, Sarah May, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Shut Eye Image

"…gives voice to the people we work with daily but never knew existed."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon