Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Sleepwalking Movie Poster Image
Mature adult drama sinks under its own weight.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A woman abandons her daughter, and a grandfather physically abuses his son and grandchild -- yet, an uncle proves that, when called upon, some people do rise to the occasion and attempt to do what's right for a child. An 11-year-old girl acts out (smoking, swearing) in response to her mother's callous treatment of her.


Infrequent, but strong. A woman screams at the cops in front of her child; a grandfather yells at his granddaughter and later hits her. A scene of a dead horse; a young man defends a child by assaulting her attacker with a shovel.


A woman fools around with her boyfriend on a dining table while her relatives sleep nearby; later, she removes her child from the bedroom and plops her on the sofa so she can use the room with her boyfriend (no nudity shown); a man makes suggestive comments to coworkers.


`F--k` shows up early; also many uses of `s--t` (including by a child), plus `goddamn` and `ass.`


Some signage for Bobcat tractors and various motel chains.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of smoking and drinking, including one party during which the participants get smashed. An 11-year-old girl smokes. A minor character is sent to jail for growing marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that even though one of the main characters in this film is an 11-year-old girl (played by popular tween star AnnaSophia Robb, at that), it has decidedly mature themes. The girl's mother clearly loves her but is deeply troubled: She swears at her daughter, removes her from her bedroom so she can use it to tryst with her boyfriend, and even abandons her. (She does somewhat redeem herself in the end.) The girl is, unsurprisingly, deeply affected by it all -- she swears and smokes, is wracked with insecurity, and trusts virtually no one. Later, she witnesses and is subjected to harsh violence. There's also a passing reference to drug use (Joleen's boyfriend goes to jail for growing pot), drinking, and strong language throughout.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say
Adult Written bySocrates April 9, 2008

Good try but flawed results

Given that this film is produced by Charlize Theron it is not as offensive as it could have been (think "Monster"). It is a noble attempt to create a... Continue reading

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What's the story?

After his sister Joleen's (Charlize Theron) boyfriend is hauled off to jail -- leaving her and her daughter, Tara (AnnaSophia Robb), homeless -- James (Nick Stahl) doesn't have much choice but to take them in. But then Joleen takes off, leaving James to care for Tara, even though he's barely able to care for himself. He tries, learning to drive a car so he can take her to school (even though it makes him late for work) and skipping his construction job altogether when she wants to search for her mom. But he soon gets fired for his absences, is evicted from his apartment, and loses Tara to social services. Hoping to make things right, he whisks her away from foster care back to the farm where he and Joleen grew up. Instead of being an escape, however, his homecoming reminds him all-too-painfully of why he and Joleen turned out so lost. Faced with the possibility of his forbidding father (Dennis Hopper) ruining Tara, too, Nick is forced to make an explosive, yet strangely freeing, decision.

Is it any good?

Once in a while you come across a film that means so well you wish it nothing but success. SLEEPWALKING is that kind of movie. Its story and lead actors are as earnest as they can be. Stahl is especially haunting, particularly in a scene in which he lies on the floor of a basement, crying, and Robb is mature beyond her years, as befits the role.

But, sadly, the movie fails, unable to capitalize on its generally strong performances. (Theron, who also produced the film, is the exception here -- but even she isn't horrible so much as overdone.) Scenes flow from one to the next with no real energy. In short? The title is a dead giveaway.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how "bad" parents are depicted in movies. Why are there so many films about moms and dads who don't seem suited to the job? Do you think the way they're characterized is realistic? What makes someone a "good" or "bad" parent? How does Joleen handle motherhood? Is it clear in the beginning that her child matters to her the most? Does she change in the end, or is James a more suitable parent, despite what happens?

Movie details

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