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“Sleepwalk with Me” Review

Photo: Sleepwalkers Anonymous

Stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia is the co-director, co-writer (along with Ira Glass who currently hosts the very popular This American Life on NPR), and star of the independent film Sleepwalk with Me. The film – whose principal character, Matt Pandamiglio, is an aspiring stand-up comedian and bartender – is loosely based on Birbiglia’s own life.

The main crux of the film is Matt’s stale, dead-in-the-water relationship. For all intents and purposes, he and his levelheaded girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose), a yoga instructor, should be happy together. They’ve been together for a long time, and everyone expects that the two will get married… some day. With a complete lack of energy and borderline indifference, Matt slogs through the relationship like he’s walking through mud. It’s clear he’s struggling with the relationship, but is unsure of how and when to end it.

Since the film is told from a first-person narrative, we don’t get much insight from Abby, but we do see how Matt’s indifference is hurtful to her. The film makes sure to portray her as a sympathetic character, as much as Matt seems to be.

Then there’s Matt’s sleep disorder, which causes him to act out his dreams in the middle of the night. It’s an issue that is constantly present in Matt’s everyday life, but one that he avoids dealing with – much like his relationship with Abby.

At various times, the film cuts to scenes of Matt sitting in his car or eating a sandwich on a bench as he narrates the story to the audience or gives little disclaimers. (“Remember: you’re on my side.”)

The film does a really good job of taking you through the evolution of Matt’s stand-up, and the scenes allow for various cameos by comedians like Marc Maron, Kristen Schaal, and Wyatt Cenac. Matt starts off telling incredibly benign jokes; it’s not until he begins delving into his personal life that his stand-up begins to take a turn in the positive direction.

Sleepwalk with Me is an off-beat comedy, one that is earnest and has plenty of heart. I recommend checking it out on Netflix.

three and a half stars

  • Starring: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose
  • Directed by: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish
  • Running Time: 81 minutes
  • Genre: Comedy