Directed by William Maher (R)
A deadbeat mother leaves her daughter in the hands of her dysfunctional family.
Sleepwalking takes you to grim places, but “at least you’ll remember the actors who navigated the tortured journey,” said Stephen Farber in The Hollywood Reporter. For his downbeat debut, director William Maher assembled an impressive cast including Dennis Hopper, Nick Stahl, AnnaSophia Robb, and Charlize Theron, who also acts as producer. Together, they tell a bleak story about a family broken by an abusive father, a brother’s ineptness, and a mother’s abandonment. Theron “brings force and integrity” as a reckless single mother who leaves her daughter behind for another loser. Stahl, often “the best thing in very mediocre movies,” gives depth and dignity to an emotionally bruised man. The “real find” is Robb, who, as the daughter, demonstrates a deftness beyond her years. They “ratchet up the emotional intensity,” said Ronnie Scheib in Variety. But Zac Stanford’s “overly simplistic script” lets them down. The story becomes more unbelievable as the drama trudges on, said Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times. Weighed down by Maher’s ominous direction, the film “feels like warmed over Sam Shepard minus the poetry.”