“Waking the Dead” is a complex film. It’s not your typical supernatural, suspense, romantic, mystery, political, drama, thriller. The story involves idealistic Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup) who falls for Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) in 1972. The two fast become lovers and soulmates in spite of the fact that Sarah is a political activist whose views are completely the opposite of Fielding’s. A typical review might say that Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly ignite the screen which is cliché – but you can’t deny that Jennifer is at her best balancing being head over heels in love with their tumultuous differences. The two clearly have chemistry as they are constantly at odds over politics.
The story bounces back and forth between their budding romance in the early seventies and Fielding’s run for congress in 1982. We learn in the film’s opening moments that Sarah died needlessly in a car bomb in 1974 over a political issue. Fielding has never gotten over Sarah’s tragic death, and sees her everywhere. Is his mind playing tricks, or did she never really die in the explosion? By the end the “is she alive or not” question matters less as the film becomes more about Fielding’s growth from an ambitious and selfish politician to a passionate and caring advocate for the people.
Don’t be misles by the trailer that bills “Dead” as a kind of ghost story. This is not The Sixth Sense, but on its own terms, “Waking the Dead” is a moving drama about loss that is not what you’d expect.