For those of us who miss seeing David Lynch films, it’s hard to find an alternative. In the case of Chasing Sleep, you get just that, if not better. The formula is simple: take a perfect world and slowly corrupt it, slipping in metaphors for the viewer to digest.
Without giving too much away, Chasing Sleep starts with a rather serene environment, an antiseptic house Jeff Daniels never leaves. And yes, I prefer to call him Jeff Daniels, not Ed Saxon, his character’s name. Truthfully, the fact it’s Jeff Daniels makes the movie all the more disturbing, because you get to see him devolve into a deeply disturbed man whose anxiety is so internalized it breaks him. When his wife has gone missing, he under reacts, acting out of denial. His voice never wavers. Then these holes appear in his house and the plumbing becomes sporadically troubled. Nothing, including a random severed finger, will go down the toilet, yet the burned pages of his wife’s diary easily go the shower drain.
Though at a restricted pace, the film accomplishes what it needs to. The entire script is restricted the main character’s house, he does all he can to pretend everything is fine, even underplaying being the victim of a home invasion and assault to the police. All stress is internalized until it eats away and the main character becomes the epitome of the untrustworthy narrator. We don’t know if he harmed anyone and neither does he. All we get is his perspective and, while it’s “fun” to piece together the metaphors of all that happens to his house (clearly a representation of his mind) to discover what is really happening, all that matters is we’re on the journey the main character is. It’s about the ride, not the destination.
There are several ways to interpret the film. Cursory searches call it similar to Jacob’s Ladder, The Tell-Tale Heart and there are endless theories on which characters were real or not, what it meant that all characters were taking pills and so on and so forth. The point is it echoes strongly with revered works and has enough material to analyze after the fact, making it a fun ride indeed.