New on DVD: Sleepwalking

Indie festival films almost always fulfill the promise of impeccable acting, so when the performances in Sleepwalking are more than notable it comes as no surprise.

Joleen (Charlize Theron) is a restless single mom worried her unstable lifestyle is damaging her 12-year-old daughter’s (AnnaSophia Robb) outlook on life. When circumstances leave her no choice, Joleen relies on her younger brother James (Nick Stahl) to bail her out and take care of things. When Joleen takes off, James is left to care for Tara. The two embark on an unlawful road trip that quickly grows weary, leading James to take Tara to the only other place he knows – his father’s (Dennis Hopper) farm.

The actors never give the impression of a manufactured moment; each scene appears to capture a moment of genuine emotion, whether it is despair or happiness. Stahl is a talented dramatic actor and this film allows him to demonstrate his ability; at the same time, even at her age, Robb grasps the complex feelings her character is experiencing and conveys them accordingly.

And no matter how nice everyone says he is, onscreen Hopper can scare the bejesus out of anybody.

Unfortunately, director Bill Maher fails to bring anything new to this story type, sticking to the traditionally dreary style – except for a vibrant dreamlike scene of a poolside Tara.

The “making of” documentary draws a little more appreciation for the brilliant performances as viewers watch the cast and crew work in 40-below weather in front of a barren Saskatchewan landscape.

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