Waking Life

Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring: The voice of Wiley Wiggins and many others.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
December 19, 2001

It's been a month and a half since I've seen Waking Life, and this is my first review in that time. The other writers have been picking up the slack in these last few weeks, which have been very eventful and, indeed, life-changing for me. Yet through all of it, I still remember this film.

It is the first animated feature to use traced live-action for all the character animation, but instead of grounding the film in reality, it allows for a wide range of visual styles. This is necessary since it all takes place in a dream state. The dreamer is unnamed, but voiced by Wiley Wiggins. He meets various people, who go on long soliloquies about philosophy and how it relates to dreaming and death. At other times, he eavesdrops (with the audience) on other similar conversations.

The film doesn't make it known whether he is dreaming from the beginning, but the visuals are always disjointed, as if from a dream. Objects float and surfaces shift while perspective is distorted in Picasso-like fashion. The style is distracting at first, but the deep conversations pull you in until a dream-like state falls upon the audience. After watching it, you will want to check your watch to see if you can read it, and then you'll carefully fondle the seat in front of you to make sure it's there.

Waking Life is unlike any experience you can have in a theatre, and while it's not quite a great film, it is certainly one of the best this year. Look for it this winter in the new Academy Award category for animated features as the indie dark horse between Monsters, Inc. and Shrek.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Waking Life (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Waking Life: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

FilmHead.com Home
Review Archive
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings


Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan