"“A subtle picture that seeks only in making you smile...”"
When counting the amount of genuinely funny comedy features from one calendar year on your fingers, rarely do you need to call upon your second hand, yet here is a definite addition to the somewhat exclusive list – coming in the unexpected form of Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish's independent picture Sleepwalk With Me, a charming and – wait for it – laugh out loud comedy film.
Birbiglia not only co-wrote and directed this title, but plays our lead Matt Pandamiglio, a slowly prospering stand-up comedian, who after years of not being recognised for his work, is finally getting gigs, as he drives across the United States to perform to crowds, gradually growing in numbers. However his burgeoning career comes at a price, as he starts to drift apart from his long-term partner Abby (Lauren Ambrose) – who after 8 years is expecting a marriage proposal. Stressing Matt out somewhat, he also has his father on his back, desperately trying to persuade him to see a doctor about his dangerous inclination to sleepwalk at night, something that Matt has conveniently chosen to ignore.
There aren't too many great belly laughs in this one, but Sleepwalk With Me is consistently amusing, as you find yourself wryly chuckling from start to finish. Birbiglia and Barrish manage to find that perfect balance between comedy and poignancy, managing to delve into issues we must all face in life, and just offering a lighter alternative, allowing the viewer the chance to laugh about issues that we otherwise find distressing. The anxiety about marriage is brilliant judged for example, as well as the tricky art of the balancing act between your career and your other half. Underneath the almost surrealist, quirky comedy – of The Flight of the Conchords ilk – is a really touching and unnervingly pragmatic title that allows for the narrative to follow a direct path.
As a result, the character of Matt is extremely relatable, which candidly allows us into his world and story. There are a handful of times when you can spot elements of yourself in his role. A few too many times in fact. It can get somewhat worrying. This is also enhanced by the natural chemistry Matt shares with Abby, as they come across as a genuine couple, despite their differences. This is effective as it allows for us to empathise with their predicament, as we can see the shades of their relationship when it was blissful, adding a sense of sorrow to their impending break-up. Like real life, once things start improving for Matt, that doesn't instantly spell a rounded, happy ending for all involved. Things change, that's all.
Sleepwalk With Me is a subtle picture that seeks only in making you smile, as a film that is earnest and sincere in its approach – epitomised in the fact that we don't actually see much of Matt's stand-up routine, avoiding becoming self-indulgent in any way and ensures the story is the most prominent aspect. Complete with an amiable tone, this is a film you'd happily buy on DVD and watch all over again.