Sleeper’s Wake is the haunting debut film from Barry Berk which has been nominated for the 56th BFI London Film Festival’s Sutherland Award for Directorial Debut. The award recognises the most original and imaginative first feature in the festival. SLEEPER’S WAKE was selected for its exemplary cast and unsettling qualities, evoking the suspenseful drama of intelligent thrillers like Winter’s Bone and Lantana.
Adapted from the award-winning novel by Alistair Morgan, the film is a very skilful debut feature which explores the dark secrets and unsettling world of an eerie and remote coastal area in South Africa, portrayed with haunting beauty on the screen. On a deeper level the film investigates themes of healing and guilt which are never far from the surface in a country still reckoning with the pain of its past and where the truth may still need to be confronted.
John Wraith is in his mid-forties and is regaining consciousness in hospital. With a fresh big scar across his face, he is more than a little stupefied by drugs and amnesia. Learning that his wife and daughter have died in a car accident because he fell asleep at the wheel, and troubled by guilt, he retreats to an isolated coastal village to recuperate. Here he meets Jackie, a vulnerable teenage girl who, with her father and brother, is also traumatised by loss. Jackie is struggling to come to terms with the murder of her mother after a violent robbery. The teenager manipulatively seduces John, and when their liaison is inevitably consummated, the result has explosive consequences.