Sleepwalk With Me (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner03/05/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Brilliantly written, painfully honest and frequently very funny, this is an engaging and smartly directed debut from Mike Birbiglia that commendably avoids the usual romcom clichés.

What's it all about?
Co-written (with Ira Glass) and co-directed (with Seth Barrish) by comedian-turned-playwright-turned-writer-director-actor Mike Birbiglia, Sleepwalk With Me is an autobiographically inspired comedy that began life as an off-Broadway show. Birbiglia stars as Matt Pandamiglio, an aspiring stand-up comedian whose seemingly perfect girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) begins to drop hints that it's time they started thinking about maybe getting married and starting a family after being together for eight years.

Unable to confront his true feelings about both his relationship and his faltering career, Matt tries to avoid the issue and takes a series of low-paying stand-up gigs that take him away from home. However, his deep-seated anxieties begin to manifest themselves in a series of increasingly disturbing nightmares and sleepwalking incidents, which he continually tries to ignore, despite repeated entreaties from his concerned father (James Reborn) to see a sleep specialist.

The Good
Birbiglia frames the film as an Annie Hall-style confessional narrative, opening with him introducing himself to camera and saying that he's going to tell us a true story; this allows for cleverly undercutting comments on what we're watching later on, for example, 'Can I just remind you, before you watch this bit, that you're supposed to me on my side?’ This set-up is highly effective, imbuing the story with a painful honesty that goes a long way towards softening our feelings for Matt (it is, after all, quite hard to sympathise with a lead character who doesn't want to marry Lauren Ambrose).

The performances are excellent. Birbiglia has an endearing hangdog quality that serves him well and Lauren Ambrose is utterly adorable as Abby; moreover, their relationship feels genuine and their arguments and interactions have an uncomfortable ring of truth to them, particularly any time the subject of marriage is raised. In addition, there's strong support from James Reborn and Carol Kane (as Matt's scatty mother) and a welcome turn from Girls' Alex Karpovsky as a fellow stand-up.

The Great
The cleverly edited sleepwalking scenes are handled extremely well, eliciting both laughter and tension, since you end up dreading the cut to reality after an often comical dream sequence. The film also explores a number of intriguing issues, such as the work/life balance and the conflicts involved when mining your personal life for successful stand-up material.

Worth seeing?
Sleepwalk With Me is a hugely enjoyable, frequently funny and emotionally engaging comedy with a refreshingly honest script and terrific performances from Birbiglia and Ambrose. Highly recommended. Sadly, the film doesn't currently have UK distribution, but it's available to buy from either the film's website or from iTunes UK.

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Content updated: 20/08/2018 07:28

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