I watched this film again today and painstakingly took precise notes, including dialogue. My intention was to lay this out in excruciating detail, including a lot of dialogue. Unfortunately, since I was using word at the time, and cutting and pasting on to WordPress, I noticed that I repeated a bunch of scenes out of order. (Honestly, I’m not sure it matters), but I became frustrated.
Lucky me and luckier you. Servetus has provided a detailed ( though I think it fortunately, not as detailed, as mine) a description of the plot, with some discussion. Mine had no discussion yet. So, in order to appreciate this post, you absolutely have to first read, and perhaps go back to this post, on Me and Servetus, because that’s where you’ll find the plot, along with her interpretation (s) and review.
I’m going to stick to some particular parts or mysteries of the film that interested me and are not a repeat on what’s on the other blog.
The premise of the film is that a graduate student, formerly married to a famous author who committed suicide, has returned to school to write her dissertation. She’s been sleepwalking and having nightmares. Throughout the film, as Sarah gets medical help and meets medical professionals, her reality/identity changes and she finds herself in situations that make no sense in the real world. These include her apparently going under the wrong last name, one roommate who keeps changing into a second person with a different name ( i.e. she’s long haired Dawn and then she’s short-haired Nicole), people who remembered and interacted with her one day and then had no recollection of meeting her the next. Not to mention a phantom stalker who, we can be sure is a dream creation. To add to the confusion, at some point, her doctor, Scott White, played by Richard Armitage, gets sucked into some of her realities on his own.
For example, Sarah says in her nightmare, a man is stalking her, wants to hurt her, and we see him do that. On three occasions, he attacks her and tries to suffocate her. This is clearly a dream because afterwards, the evidence makes clear it never happened, or she wakes up gasping. But then, during the third attack, Scott White comes to the rescue and beats the shit out of the guy, who gets taken to the hospital. At another point, Sarah’s referring therapist, Dr. Cooper, tells Scott she did not meet Scott and Sarah earlier in the day and has no idea who Sarah is. Never heard of her. But we saw them all when it happened. Cooper, however, has a different hairdo and clothing from earlier on. Near the end of the film, Scott and Sarah are both invisible to the mystery woman who is hooked up to machines in the sleep clinic as they are to the “other” Dr. White. So at this point in the film, things are going haywire for Scott White, as well as for Sarah.
Furthermore, when Scott goes to see Dr. Cooper, that is the only scene in the entire film, without Sarah. Every other time, Sarah is present, either as an observer or a participant.
In her post, Servetus points out a possibility that I didn’t think of – and that is, maybe this isn’t Sarah’s POV at all – maybe it’s Scott White’s or even another character’s. It’s worth considering, though so much of Sarah’s experience takes place without Scott, I’m not sure if that works. For me, I have always found that I am somewhere in my dreams as an observer.
It may be that the filmmaker’s intent was to give us, as viewers our own opportunity to decide what’s happened or is happening. On the other hand, the film gives us hard clues as to when Sarah is dreaming and when she’s not. That’s not a true statement. There is no “awake” in this film. If you’ve read Serv’s analysis, it’s more than likely that at least, these are dreams within dreams or a series of dreams. But, because, there seem to be visual clues as to which state Sarah is in, we, as the audience, are supposed to be figuring out what’s a dream and what isn’t ( or which dream it is) – even when there is no answer. At least, I think we are. I think the writer/director intended the audience to try and follow a mystery. They knew we would.
I prefer a mystery in which the author gives us the solution. Here, we come to our own solution. But, I have to give credence to many of Servetus’s thoughts about what identity issues/reality issues the film might want to bring out, whether it’s a loop of some sort, because otherwise, all it is is Bobby coming out of the shower in Dallas, i.e, it was and continues to be, all a dream and we, the audience, haven’t seen anything real for 85 of the 90 minutes. Or maybe, not at all.
One of the most curious mysteries to me is how the creatives handled the beginning Spoiler.
It is a spoiler and it isn’t. Early in the film, Sarah Foster is waling through the rain to an office, where she’s going to meet for lunch, Jonathan Gray, who we are later told, was her husband, a famous author. When she walks into his office, we see a man, backlit against a window, leaning forward, supporting himself, head bent, in apparent despair. He speaks to and basically tells her he can’t do this anymore, he didn’t want her to see this and a few other things. He shoots himself in the head or holds something to it that I am sure is gun, but remains standing ( we don’t see him fall) I think every Richard Armitage fan will immediately recognize this figure as Richard Armitage -whether from BTS or promo shots, or in my case, because I just knew who it was. I don’t know if someone not familiar with Armitage would get it at all, that is make the connection that Scott White is Jonathan Gray. Later, it becomes interesting to consider that, if there was a Jonathan Gray, Sarah, in her dream state, cleaned up something Gray to make it White.
On the other hand, I completely agree that the voice in that first scene is not Richard Armitage. Only the last moan/howl, sounds anything like him. Scott White sounds like Richard Armitage.
I assume the creatives intended that, but why? They could have shot the scene without showing Jonathan if they wanted to keep it as a mystery. Alternatively, they could have hired another actor for the beginning scene, and second scene in the office ( when Sarah spies him having sit down sex with the other woman- also not so clear that it’s Armitage), and substituted Armitage for the final scene when Sarah shoots him. In this film, it would not have made a difference since things were so weird and people changed. By that time, we knew Scott was also in some part of Sarah’s mystery. But having decided to use Richard Armitage’s body with a different voice – why would they bother voicing that over? Who exactly was that for?
I’m open to ideas.
So, at first we think that Jonathan Gray killed himself in Sarah’s presence. There are three scenes in Jonathan Gray’s office. The first, another scene where Sarah spies him making sit down love with another ( or that other) woman, and the final scene, when we see that Sarah actually shoots him, and then herself. In that scene, it is Richard Armitage, with his own voice. In all three scenes, Sarah is wearing the same clothes, which are of a completely different style than anything else she wears in the film. Her hairstyle is radically different as well. She’s wearing her long hair in a large French twist with bangs, not a hair out of place – just like Dr. Cooper in one of her scenes. Her dress is a basic black knit and her outerwear is an interesting, tan rendition of a trench coat with a soft triple lapel, almost large ruffles, and the coat is short, belted and flared – very fifties – but like most parts of her other outfits, it is translucent. She’s wearing black rain booties with thin heels – no socks.
It’s hard to believe that the person who chose those clothes also chose the clothes we see throughout the rest of the film. This was a very sophisticated look, compared to Sarah’s usual look, which, as I describe, seem like some things a child would select.
Late in the film, when Sarah remembers what happens, or we think she remembers, as she’s telling Scott, she tells Scott that she found Jonathan with another woman and left him. We see the scene played out where she is packing a very retro suitcase. It’s the old, hard leather, very rectangular type that your grandmother or Bette Davis would have in some fifties film. Sarah would not have had that suitcase a year or ever, before the film takes place. And the clothes she is packing are very traditional looking items – I picked out what looked like a few solid sweaters or turtlenecks.
On the other hand, throughout the rest of the film, she dresses bizarrely. The dress I discussed yesterday is the most extreme example. It’s a lavender or gray creation, illusion lace on the top with bell sleeves and then lined from the scoop neck down, and fitted with a yellow ribbon perfectly tied. She’s wearing anklets or mid-high sheer gray hose with high heels.
Her wardrobe is full of clashing off colors, like moss green with orange or yellow, often the fabric is a brocade or a lace of some sort, frequently there are sparkles. Something is always sheer. Sleeveless dresses are worn with blouses under them, jumper style, and she even wears old style, wide culottes with a sort of updated brown and white oxford, but with slim heels, and socks, of course.
This all gives the impression of a little girl dressing up in Mommy’s clothes. There is definitely a little fairy princess vibe going on. Socks with heels are seen throughout, though they change. (Servetus has great screen shots). As I closely examined the wardrobe, and I did, I concluded that these are clothes a little girl would select – feminine, see-through, glittery make believe stuff, but like a little girl with no fashion experience, she takes pieces she likes and puts them together in odd ways, because she likes each piece. So what if it doesn’t really go?
One other childish piece is the bike that Sarah rides. While it doesn’t have pink and white streamers, it is old fashioned looking and has a big basket in the front. The box where Sarah keeps her mementos ( including her journal) is also something a child would love. It’s a big square pink box, like a square hatbox, tied with a beautiful ribbon.
So, are these clothes that a woman would dream of, or a man? There might be something to be said, that a man dreaming that he’s a White knight rescuing a damsel in distress might wish to imagine her as a princess or little girl. This might resonate if we conclude (as I do) that in some reality, the funeral we saw in the beginning was of the patient Scott White says died, and that the woman in question, just might be the real Sarah Wells. But he would need to know a lot about fabrics.
I’m open to ideas about the wardrobe. I think it has meaning.
As an aside, and as Servetus mentioned, on a few occasions, her clothes were way too big, giving some weight to the notion that she was wearing someone else’s clothes – maybe the other woman’s. But no. Whatever she put on that was too big, and which she made work by belting it or sashing it – in a later scene, those same clothes fit perfectly. This was especially apparent when she took herself to the laundry room to take pills and drink a bottle of vodka in too big clothes, but walked out the next morning with those same clothes perfectly fitting her. This occurred twice with oversized clothes fitting her, and once with her culottes that fit, then didn’t fit, then fit again. She managed to wear Scott White’s clothes ( jeans and a sweater), but they were too big, and rolled up. (Yes – she literally got into his pants)
The nightgown, on the other hand, was the height of sophistication as well as femininity. It was something office Sarah would select. It was traditional flowing white, very diaphanous (you could see her undies and complete shape right through it) but it had a very modern, upscale twist, with a very low back, but a bra-like strap across her back.
The sets were also distinctive. As Guylty Pleasure noted, there is a mid-century modern look to almost all the furnishings. In Sarah’s room, and maybe the whole apartment, it’s very 40’s or 50’s, with blonde wood and a dressing table with a triple mirror out of central props. In other instances – Scott’s sparse furnishings and the “other woman’s” house, there is more of a 70’s vibe, with curvaceous lamps and straight lines.
Of interest, and I have to go back to make sure of this, I noticed that, in the other woman’s bedroom, instead of a night table, there was a dresser next to the bed. It had a lamp on one end, very 70’s looking, and on the other end, there was a small vase of flowers. I thought I saw the same vase of flowers,with a different, but similar lamp, in Scott White’s bedroom, where Sarah was sleeping. Nothing else was on either dresser, as I recall. Not sure what to make of that, unless the dreamer had a particular taste that she ascribed to “normal” people.
In watching this film, which I liked much more the second time, I realized relatively soon that it wasn’t an ordinary dream film.
First there was Richard Armitage as Jonathan Gray. Then, early in the film when Sarah and her roommate ( #1, Dawn) were strolling through a cemetery, Dawn tells Sarah, that sine she hasn;t dated at all, she should follow advice Dawn read: every day pick out 3 potential soul mates that you see in your day. Make a story about them to make them into what you want. We see a funeral procession, and Sarah says, something like, it could be him. And we see Richard Armitage ( Scott White) get out of one of the cars with a woman ( maybe even that woman, she looked similar. Again, this woman was dressed in what I would call Hollywood funeral garb – a black dress with sheer lace sleeves and a hat – not quite as small as a fascinator, but very chic. Ordinary people don’t dress up that way for funerals these days. Again, it’s something we might fantasize about if we were pretending to be, say a grieving widow.
Next we know, the very same man, what a coincidence, is Sarah’s doctor, Scott White. Thus, those three, early sitings of him, and his quick change of behavior, from almost coldly professional to taking over her case the next day, pointed to something that just wasn’t quite right. But it was fun to spot.
On reflection of course, the advice Dawn gave Sarah about picking a soul mate, was exactly what she tried to do, at least in her dreams, or whatever they were.
Scott and Sarah get closer and closer as they try to figure things out. I don;t want to ignore the love making. There’s a teaser during her first stay over at his house when you think it’s going to happen, but he walks away. The second time, though, after the beating of the stalker, they do have sex, and it’s fine. Just fine.
Servetus forgot to mention that when Sarah awoke the next morning, she fulfilled thousands of fan girl dreams by stroking the sleeping man’s beard.
Cut to the end, and Sarah is in some hospital ward having a bad dream, gasping for breath, ( but seemingly in a coma, I thought) when we see a white suited person, no face, check her machinery, and then, we see it’s a cleaned up Haley Joel Osmont, ministering to Anna, and telling her he will always look after her. That whole set, including the equipment was outdated or retro ( the oxygen mask was the green plastic kind that goes over your nose and mouth, the respirator was accordion style, the beds were metal cots)
It’d be easy to say that the entire film from beginning to that point, were all dreams. That Sarah/Anna was the other woman, and that she successfully killed Jonathan Gray, but botched the job on herself. There was literally no blood at the crime scene. Just a clean neat bullet hole through Jonathan’s forehead, dead center, sniper kill shot style. Didn’t mess up his face at all. In fact, the crime scene itself, with its clock at 11:10, same time as the clock in the medical center, when Sarah was telling Scott the story, doesn’t seem real. Shot face front in the head, Jonathan landed on his back stretched out. We don’t see him fall, but it seems unlikely he would have crawled around without bleeding, and Sarah fell face forward, which doesn’t make a lot of sense either.
Of interest to me – the professor was lecturing that love is nothing more than a chemical reaction – dopamine, maybe even a bi-polar condition. This is not unlike what Scott White told Sarah about dreams and how they occur – that the brain releases chemicals that cause emotions, and those emotions cause us to make up stories to fit the emotions.
Overall, I think the film is thought provoking and benefits from multiple viewings. I thought Ahna O’Reilly was good – not great. She didn’t overact when she was in distress or having understandable anxiety, and at times I thought she underacted, especially during more ordinary conversations, for example when she first meets Dr. Cooper in their initial session or in some conversations with Scott White.
I thought Richard Armitage did a good job. At times this role was little like his Brain on Fire role, as consoler, supporter, but he had a couple of special scenes, again, mostly reactive, when he was listening to Sarah. Unfortunately for me, despite the good sex scene, I didn’t feel great chemistry between the two. I don’t think this is necessarily the actors’ fault. I’m not sure they were given the material to build up a real relationship with any sexual tension, despite Sarah’s occasional flirting.