James Reedy (Nick Stahl) is a man sleepwalking through his life, but this starts to change when his errant sister Joleen (Charlize Theron) turns up needing somewhere for her and 11-year-old daughter, Tara to stay. Suddenly Joleen takes off without warning leaving him responsible for his niece. After the initial upheaval, the two form a bond and take to the road, heading for the farm where James grew up, and his father (Dennis Hopper) still lives. With the authorities after them, and cruelties of the past repeating themselves will James finally wake up and take a stand, not just for himself now, but for Tara too?
A tale of abandonment.
- Sleepwalking review by Shatner's Bassoon
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After her boyfriend is jailed for growing marijuana and her home trashed by the local police, Joleen calls her brother James for a place for herself and her 12 year old daughter Tara to stay. James lives in a rundown apartment and has a menial job as a highway maintenance worker and can barely take care of himself, and when Joleen skips town leaving a note to say she’ll be back in a month, James is left to take care of Tara and is ill equipped to look after a 12 year old girl, and it’s not long before he loses his job and social services arrive to take Tara into foster care. After visiting her at the foster home on her birthday, the pair decide to skip town with a few hundred bucks and head where the road takes them. It’s not long before the two form a close bond, although after a few days they run low on funds and head for James and Joleen's father's farm and into the home of an abusive and cruel natured old man, who quickly puts the pair to work and treats his son and granddaughter as little more than unpaid slaves. The film is in essence a character based look at abandonment through individuals living close to the poverty line. The story of adult and child on the run has been done many times before and while the story comes off a bit bland and predictable it’s the lead performances of Nick Stahl and AnnaSophia Robb which hold the film together. Dennis Hopper is also very good as James’ bitter and abusive father. The direction is ok and has some nice outdoor shots of cold, bleak and depressive landscapes. Overall, Sleepwalking isn't the best film you'll ever see, but there are far worse films out there and if you like gently paced character based dramas its well worth a look.