By Heinrich Domingo
Cinema is meant to be beautiful. The perfect assembly of visual elements is prerequisite in an effective delivery of a story. Sleepless knows this by heart. Through its production design and cinematography, its narrative on insomniac and call center lifestyle leaves an everlasting impression. This movie is proof that achieving cinematic beauty comes from detailed orchestration of all items seen in a frame.
An outbound call center agent named Gem (played by Glaiza de Castro) suffers from insomnia because of her shifting work schedule. She met Barry (Dominic Roco), a coworker who got separated from his son. Together, they battle their difficulty to sleep through joining each other in those weary nights. While both think that their problem roots from their ruined body clock, they later reveal underlying issues that might say otherwise. It is a story of friendship and the sad reality that sleeping on our problems do not always work out.
The production team’s attention to details is at the core of the movie. Camera angles, character movement, and set design are all well-orchestrated earning the exclusive rank of being a material for film school discussions.
Director of photography Tey Clamor proved her caliber through showcasing beautiful frames of images. In the technical aspect of filmmaking, Clamor’s technique emphasized elements of the plot without using the same shots over and over again. She deviates from contemporary cinematographers whose idea of emphasis lies from using only one treatment which is close-up shots. A vertical border of two characters to signify conflict, an overwhelming empty space beside a lonely character, and a reflected image to allow characters to move in and out the frame are just few of the visual revelries found in this movie.
Complementing the cinematography is a meticulous production design. One would immediately notice small and trivial items that foreshadow events in the future. From art decors on the wall to the hairstyle of the female protagonist, everything coincides with the storyline. One might argue that these images are too subtle to be noticed but since cinema speaks visually, they shall help in expounding the limited script recited by actors and actresses.
Since the visual elements are all precisely composed, Director Prime Cruz allowed the cast to be free on their acting. Adlibs made actors and actresses wander off from the restricted screenplay. This resulted in a more comfortable exchange of lines. De Castro and Roco’s natural acting gives the audience an illusion that what they see in the big screen are people living an actual life. For the plot to be relatable, such treatment is necessary.
Sleepless’ story is not one for the books. It is a simple narrative about two ordinary characters with no extraordinary stories to share. And this was the intention of the film. It presented relatable characters using shared experiences familiar to the public. The viewers are being reminded of their own silly talks on zombie apocalypse, questions on bearing superpowers, or even gossiping about others in a nearby table while in a restaurant. All these are made to allow the viewers own the story.
From beginning until end, the movie remained true to its vision. It seeks balance between defined and spontaneous. It recognizes the reality that there is beauty both in formula and improvisation. This earns Sleepless its spot as one of the most cinematographically brilliant films of our generation.