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The Other Side of Sleep

The Other Side of Sleep

Released 16 March 2012
Director Rebecca Daly

Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Vicky Joyce, Olwen Fouere, Cathy Belton, Sam Keeley

Rebecca Daly, Glenn Montgomery

Morgan Bushe, Macdara Kelleher
Origin Ireland
Running Time 93 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating 15A

The cool side of the pillow.

Arlene (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) wakes up on a duvet. There seems to be a girl asleep next to her. But when Arlene looks up she sees the sky and realises that she’s in the woods. And the girl next to her is dead. Such is life when you’re a chronic sleepwalker. Arlene tells no one, she simply goes back to her flat and her mundane job in a local factory.

She’s a small, very quiet young woman who seems to live a very isolated existence. A couple of days later, some children discover the body in the woods and it becomes the talk of the small town. She is named as Gina (Zsuzsa Varga), a local girl with something of a bad reputation. Arlene’s co-worker Maggie (Olwen Fouere) asks her to organise some flowers from the girls in the factory. Arlene goes to the reception in Gina’s family home after the funeral and strikes up a relationship with Gina’s sister Donna (Vicky Joyce). Slowly Arlene becomes obsessed with Gina and how she was murdered.

It emerges that Arlene’s own mother had been murdered in similar circumstances to Gina, when Arlene was a child. In the paranoid atmosphere in the town suspicion falls on Maggie’s son Killen (Sam Keeley). Killen is the local bad boy who’s done time for some unspecified crime. As they’re both outsiders Arlene and Killen begin seeing each other, but Arlene is unsure about him as he was the last person to see Gina alive before she was murdered.

Director Rebecca Daly makes her feature film debut after her acclaimed short Joyriders won several awards a few years back. She’s made a very distinctive film that will mostly likely divide audiences. Don’t go to this film expecting a classic ‘whodunnit’. This film isn’t really that bothered about the mechanics of the plot.

Instead it’s more of a mood piece as we follow Arlene around as she tries to avoid sleeping for fear of where she’ll wander off to if she does. This is combined with a feeling of paranoia as someone appears to be watching her or is that just in her head? Daly makes good use of the barren Offaly landscape to increase the sense of bleakness and alienation.

It’s not an easy watch, yet it keeps our interest throughout and that is largely down to the performance of Campbell-Hughes. The former fashion designer is being tipped for big things and you can see why. She’s not an especially sympathetic character, hardly talking and almost never smiling. Yet she draws us into her world, making us care and worry about her.

The film isn’t a total success and at times it does feel like it’s being self-consciously odd for the sake of it. Yet it’s the sort of film that could well develop a cult following and it marks down Daly and Campbell-Hughes as two talents to keep an eye on.

- Jim O’Connor