Josie is a young woman with a serious medical issue. She suffers from severe narcolepsy, and is confined to both her home… and to the helmet she constantly has to wear on her head to protect her brain from any trauma her sudden naps may bring about. While her parents are away, Josie is left in the care of her half-sister Samantha, a dark, mysterious young woman who seems to greatly enjoy watching her sister pass out so that she can pose Josie however she likes and take pictures of her. But Josie’s condition means that she’s almost constantly in a state of uncertainty, never really being able to distinguish her dreams from reality. And dear sister Samantha may or may not be exacerbating the problem.
Or, more appropriately, PROBLEMS
Wakey Wakey is a beautiful black and white indie film that, I’ll be honest right up front, is not wholly easy to follow. Thus, I can tell you right now, it’s not going to be a movie everyone will enjoy. The film is moody, the main characters’ relationship is murky, and the fact that the film is viewed through the lens of a subject with a severe condition of narcolepsy means that you’re never quite sure if what you’re seeing is real, or just part of some sort of surreal dreamscape.
That said, I still think it’s a film worth seeing.
To start with, the film is strikingly beautiful. Both the girls are wearing heavy makeup and the purposeful use of extreme dark and light clothing not only makes them stand out in stark contrast to their bleak surroundings, but also gives a very gothic feel to the whole affair. On top of that, the entire movie takes place in Australia out in the middle of nowhere, in an area that one could easily compare to the desert landscape of the American Southwest. It’s unpopulated, it’s sandy, it’s barren and what little plant life exists is so thin and prickly looking that there may as well be tumbleweeds rolling by. And if you expect the house the girls live in to somehow be warm and inviting, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. The house looks like a concrete contractor’s postmodernist dream, meaning, with the exception of a couple rooms, it’s primarily made of slabs of unfinished cement peppered with glass and what appear to be sheets of metal. With the use of the high-contrast black and white film, the place feels more like a prison or institution, and that is likely the intention. Add in a powerfully atmospheric soundtrack, and the gothic-industrial mood is complete.
Talking more in depth about the plot of the film would, because of its very surreal nature, not only mean revealing too many spoilers, but also not make a damn lick of sense. There’s a lot going on here for a movie that only clocks in at a little under 60 minutes. Thus, Wakey Wakey is a movie you have to pay close attention to, as there are several instances where if you blinked five minutes ago you’re going to run the risk of having missed some important revelation late. So no, this is not really a film where you can eat popcorn and turn your brain off. Hell, you may not even want to eat the popcorn. All the crunching sounds may cover up an important line of dialogue or something.
One of the things that’s a bit more obvious about the film, though, are the themes. The main one revolving around the blossoming sexuality. You see, Josie and Samantha have a very interesting relationship. Samantha not only seems to get a kick out of posing her unconcious sister, but she also seems to get off on it. What’s more, Josie seems to enjoy the morbid positions her sister seems to put her in. This ultimately creates an escalating, decidedly un-sisterly, errotic tension between the two girls throughout the film. It’s never particularly explicit, and the film knows just how far to go while still remaining in the ‘tasteful’ camp, but it’s also impossible to ignore, especially when it begins to escalate.
Or does it?
Because with this film everything you see is in question, so even the feelings, actions and emotions of the main character are decidedly in the realm of the unknown.
Other than the surreal nature of the film, which will surely dissuade a good chunk of viewers, I think a lot of people are going to find the movie’s other drawback to be its ending. At only 60 minutes long, the film moves at a respectable pace. One or two scenes may outstay their welcome, but none overtly so. You’re given just enough information to get an idea of what’s going on and to question what’s real… .and then the movie kind of ends. There are no answers given and the viewer is left to form their own conclusion. I honestly think the ending fits in perfectly with the rest of the film, but I’m also fully aware that it’s abruptness and the lack of closure is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I feel compelled to give proper forwarning.
This is the point where you give up on trying to figure things out and just go with it.
So is Wakey Wakey any good? Yes, assuming you’re in the right mood. Those looking for a more upbeat, action packed experience should look elsewhere. But those who enjoy indie/art house flicks should, at the very least, find it intriguing. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s atmospheric as hell, it sounds wonderful and the acting is excellent. Plus, it’s short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome or take up too much of your time. Just be prepared to pay close attention to what’s going on, because for such a short film there’s a lot to unpack here.
Wakey Wakey is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.