Before I wake has an unusual and creative premise. Sadly, it is let down by terrible execution.
Before I Wake Synopsis
Bereaved couple Jessie and Mark adopts eight-year-old Cody after the death of their young son Shawn. Initially joyous, they soon discover to their distress that Cody has the unique ability to turn his dreams into reality. While the boy’s peaceful dreams bring forth beautiful visions, his nightmares also manifest a dangerous monster the young boy calls The Canker Man. As Jessie investigates Cody’s history, she learns that she is not Cody’s first foster parent, and that previous tragedies have happened. Determined to save Cody, Jessie probes deeper, till she is confronted by the reality of what The Canker Man really is.
In the earliest days of my day job, an all-important truth about creative work dawned on me.
Concept is easy to come up with. Skilful execution is what differentiates professionals from amateurs.
Think about it. You prepare a strong cup of coffee. You sit down and you let your mind go wild. Chances are, you’d be able to come up with some pretty innovative ideas.
On the other hand, the most effective way to translate your ideas into great ad campaigns, public speeches, or movies, now, that’s a different game altogether. Many professionals fail at this. The ones who manage not to trip are the ones who emerge as leaders of the industry.
Before I Wake is one such failure. It starts with a pretty intriguing premise, an unusual take on the overused evil orphan/possibly evil foster parents/haunted house tropes. The way the back story is set up, there also feels to be heavy potential for discussion of complex family issues.
Alas, it goes downhill all too quickly, with the myriad elements soon becoming way too cumbersome for the director. The moment the nature of the “horror” is made clear, the story spins out of control and loses coherent identity. Is it still an evil orphan story? Or is it now supernatural detective drama? Maybe it’s psychological ambiguity?
Heaps of unanswered questions and sub-plots freely abandoned further add to viewing frustration. I kept wondering, for example, whether there was more to Kate Bosworth’s suffering mummy persona, since so much screen time was spent suggesting she is unbalanced. That the movie abruptly switches to her being resourceful heroine in the final third is just, bewildering.
As for the explanation for the “ability” of the orphan, that returns a little of the magic from the earlier half, but again, this explanation quickly spirals towards being baffling. The entire viewing experience was really very unsatisfying.
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