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Review: Katherine Waterston is a marvel in overly complex drama ‘State Like Sleep’

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Katherine Waterston in the movie “State Like Sleep.”
(Sabrina Lantos / The Orchard)

The accomplished character actress Katherine Waterston gives an excellent performance in writer-director Meredith Danluck’s “State Like Sleep,” playing a grieving widow trying to understand why her husband committed suicide. Dunluck over-complicates this muted slice-of-life, but a good cast mostly holds it together.

Waterston plays Katherine, a photographer married to Stefan (Michiel Huisman), a European movie star who kills himself, around the time the tabloids photograph him with another woman. A year later, Katherine returns to their former Brussels home when her mother (Mary Kay Place) gets sick, and can’t keep her mind from wandering toward Stefan’s death and his scandal.

The ailing mother subplot has thematic resonance, but isn’t wholly necessary to the story. It’s also somewhat excessive that, while in Belgium, Katherine gets involved with two different men: a sympathetic neighbor (Michael Shannon) at her hotel and a sleazy nightclub owner (Luke Evans) who knew Stefan.

“State Like Sleep” is sometimes a mystery-thriller, as Katherine investigates her late husband’s secret life, at some personal risk. And it’s sometimes an arty drama, as she flashes between the past and the present, while having sensual experiences she thinks might help her feel what Stefan felt.

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The mix of genres and the overload of characters are too much of a drag on the film. Waterston, though, is a wonder throughout, capturing the deep confusion as a woman whose life has been so upended that she wonders if she’ll ever see straight again.

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‘State Like Sleep’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

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Playing: Starts Jan. 4, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also available on VOD

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