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Published on July 14th, 2011 | by Sue Murphy

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The Galway Film Fleadh – Review: The Other Side of Sleep

Director: Rebecca Daly

Cast: Antonia Campbell-Huges, Sam Keeley, Olwyn Fouere, Vicky Joyce

Receiving rave reviews from Cannes and causing a stir there at the Director’s Fortnight, Rebecca Daly’s The Other Side of Sleep received an Irish screening at the Galway Film Fleadh.  Director Daly was on hand to introduce the cast and commented that “there wouldn’t be a Q&A after the film, the film sort of speaks for itself.”  Gar O’Brien, programmer for the festival, mentioned just before the screening that this was a film that stayed with him for quite a while after he saw it and it’s not hard to understand why.  Almost like a more intimidating and suffocating version of The Machinist, The Other Side of Sleep is a credit to Rebecca Daly, another of the great Irish directors making an impact abroad at the moment.

Skilfully, The Other Side of Sleep involves the audience from the first scene, our leading lady Arlene (Campbell-Hughes) is prone to sleepwalking and just before the opening credits is off on one of her mysterious expeditions.  However, this particular venture is more serious than the previous ones.  Immediately after the credits, Arlene wakes up in a wood beside the body of a dead local girl wrapped in a duvet.  Confused, she returns to her lonely flat and gets ready for work with seemingly no recollection of what happened the night before.  Arlene continues her life with the thought of the girl pushed to the back of her mind, but when the body is discovered by two schoolgirls, she is haunted by the memory of Gina, the girl from the wood.  Depriving herself from sleep and believing she is implicit in the murder, Arlene’s reality blurs as she attempts to grow closer to the family of the murdered girl.

Although that is the main plot of the film, there is far more going on in sub-plots and off camera than what meets the eye, particularly Arlene’s relationship with the local bad boy and her emotions towards her dead mother.  Her lifestyle is painfully isolated; in fact, a lot of the film contains no dialogue, only an understanding between the audience and her circumstances.  There is an overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety around Arlene’s life, her knowledge of Gina and the mysterious passers-by in the night as she walks lonely roads in Offaly.  Campbell-Hughes holds the entire production together beautifully and you can almost feel like you are watching a woman retreat into dementia right before our eyes; you will genuinely feel uncomfortable and wary for a great deal of this film.  The Ireland you will see is very different from any kind of Bord Failte advert, as Daly has stressed herself, but that is not to say it is without its beauty, particularly the scenes in the wood and long walkways.  The overall look is dark however, and only lends to the dreary life Arlene leads.  In retrospect you may feel like not a lot happens but this is the classic case of “it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey.”

And I can confirm that it has stayed with me; The Other Side of Sleep may even haunt you a little.

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