Whatever You Do, Don’t Fall Asleep
Spanish Netflix Original When Angels Sleep sets itself up as a thrilling psychological drama. After the opening act however, a series of questionable character motives, inconsistent plotting and a terrible ending make this a seriously poor effort. While the premise itself looks interesting, the entire film falls apart during the second act, relying on tired plot tropes and suspension of belief that somehow gets worse as it goes along.
The story begins with work-obsessed CEO German. 500km away from his daughter, his wife Sandra phones, lamenting his lack of interest in their daughter’s birthday which he’s now missed. Promising to make amends, German grabs the keys to the company car and plans to drive all the way back home to give his daughter a belated birthday present. Along the way a nice bit of foreshadowing is followed by German falling asleep at the wheel and presumably hitting a young girl in the middle of the road. What follows is a bizarre game of cat and mouse as German chases the victim’s friend Sylvia through cornfields and back streets in a bid to show her he’s not the culprit. With a knife in his hand and a murderous glint in his eye.
The plot itself plays out rather predictably, with German’s night changing from bad to worse as Sylvia vows to tell everyone he’s a murderer and inform the police of his alleged manslaughter from the driving seat of the car. Only, German can’t remember committing this act due to falling asleep so we’re left with two conflicting reports and have to make our own mind up over who’s telling the truth. This plays out in the usual way you’d expect from a thriller like this with a feeble attempt at garnering empathy for German who’s made out to be the victim here through the use of his daughter, desperate to hear from her Dad. That is, until the third act where reason and logic are thrown out the window and the film ends on a bizarre and troubling note.
Away from the poor plotting, the acting is generally pretty good with German slotting in nicely to the conflicted, flustered role he plays for much of the film. In many ways he actually carries the picture for large stretches of its run time and if you can look past the poor execution, his character is the shining glimmer of hope for this thriller. Having said that, his character is difficult to empathise with at best, especially after defying the police who advise him not to drive by continuing anyway. Sylvia is an easier character to empathise with, especially after seeing her friend blood-soaked and fighting for her life, but many of her lines devolve into shouting and melodramatic over-acting which is a bit disappointing.
With so many other thrillers out there, it’s hard to really recommend When Angels Sleep. There are some nice ideas here but they’re hidden behind a myriad of bad plot choices and questionable characterization. As an almost humorous “what not to do in this situation”, When Angels Sleep is worth checking out but beyond that there isn’t a whole lot here to get excited about.