“Wide Awake” filmmaker Alan Berliner can’t sleep. The second his head hits the pillow a million thoughts race through his head, keeping him awake. Chief among them is, “I can’t sleep.” What better way to try and get to the heart of your insomnia then make a film about yourself and your sleeping issues. Did I mention Berliner can’t sleep? Well, if you’re getting sick of me saying it, try sitting through 90 minutes of the guy bitching about it.
Berliner seems like a nice enough guy. He’s married and has an adorable son. He makes a living as a filmmaker and has shelves and shelves of personally archived material. Photos, stock film footage, newspaper clippings. To say Berliner is obsessive would be like saying insomnia sucks. I’m all for personal documentary filmmaking, but at least make it really fun or really weird. Berliner’s constant obsessing over his lack of sleep is like getting stuck next to some weirdo on a bus and hearing all about their boring lives when you really don’t care. But on and on and on he goes…both Berliner and that random bus talker.
I will say Berliner puts his stock footage to excellent use. He uses kitschy black and white film footage from educational films and such to prove his points and it’s really fun. He also uses music really well. It’s just that after 45 minutes or so of the sleeping subject and his issues therein, it gets old. Berliner’s likable enough but he’s no Morgan Spurlock or Caveh Zahedi. To make a personal documentary click, you really have to be willing to get in the trenches with the subject and that just doesn’t happen here.