State Like Sleep

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
State Like Sleep Movie Poster Image
Violent but dull attempt at a mystery-thriller.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No noteworthy messages. The characters tend not to follow through with anything and have no real moral center.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No notable positive role models. It's a female-driven movie, but main character begins investigating her husband's suicide belatedly, eventually loses track and gives up. She also makes other iffy choices.


Guns and gunfire. Blood oozes from a fallen character's head. Bullet wound. Hand accidentally slammed in door. Character collapses from stroke; hospital scenes.


Main character has sex with a married man; nothing graphic shown, but it's implied that they're naked under the covers. Main character also goes home with a man from a bar and kisses him; she also participates in a shampoo-related fetish (he climaxes while washing her hair). Third man caresses the main character. Married couple kisses in bed. Same- and opposite-sex couples kiss in a nightclub. Flirting, sex-related talk.


Many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "Jesus," "Christ."


iPhone, YouTube.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Suggestion that a minor deceased character had a drinking/drug problem. Cocaine use. Snorting heroin. Lots of drinking (many bottles litter a character's apartment). Main character smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that State Like Sleep is a mature mystery/thriller about a woman (Katherine Waterston) who wonders what caused her husband's suicide (and whether it was a suicide). Violence includes guns and shooting, oozing blood, and hospital scenes. There isn't any graphic nudity, but the main character has several sex partners; kissing is shown, and a man climaxes (offscreen) while indulging in a hair-washing fetish. There's also some flirting and sex-related talk. Language includes many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and more. Characters snort cocaine and heroin, the main character smokes cigarettes, and drinking is prevalent. A minor character is said to have had a drinking/drug problem. As the title implies, the movie is presumably meant to be somewhat dreamlike/like sleepwalking, but it comes out dull and disconnected.

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What's the story?

In STATE LIKE SLEEP, Katherine (Katherine Waterston) gets a shock when her successful actor husband, Stefan (Michiel Huisman), dies via suicide. A year later, Katherine gets a call that her mother (Mary Kay Place) is in the hospital in Brussels, near Katherine's old apartment, still largely untouched after Stefan's death. She begins to wonder what happened and starts searching for clues, beginning with a nightclub that Stefan frequented that's run by his old friend Emile (Luke Evans). Meanwhile, in her hotel, Katherine meets a mysterious stranger, Edward (Michael Shannon), and her investigation begins to grow uncertain. Will she ever discover Stefan's secret?

Is it any good?

As the title suggests, this so-called thriller could be trying to suggest a dreamlike or sleepwalking state, but instead it tells a terminally disjointed, boring story in a way that can induce sleep. Written and directed by Meredith Danluck, State Like Sleep comes up with many little "clues" that suggest Stefan's suicide wasn't really a suicide -- such as a mysterious photo of him with a woman and the fact that his exit wound is on the opposite side of his dominant hand -- but nothing ever comes of these; they're shrugged off as if the filmmakers were simply too tired to deal with them.

Moreover, though Shannon is always a commanding actor, his presence here is completely useless. Normally this kind of peripheral character will tie in to the mystery in some way, but State Like Sleep only suggests the possibility that he knows something. It's left ambiguous in a wholly unsatisfying, frustrating way. Not to mention that the film's drifting, apathetic pace completely sucks any life out of the mystery, just as the details of the mystery kill the idea of a "dreamlike" movie. At least Waterston is watchable going through the motions; her tormented, pain-filled performance is the only link that connects the rest of this misplaced movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about State Like Sleep's depiction of alcohol, smoking, and drug use. Do characters use or abuse these things? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences for using? Why is that important?

  • How is sex depicted? What values are imparted? How does the movie's sexual content affect your opinion of the characters?

  • What violence is shown? What effect does it have? Does it seem gratuitous, or does it get the point across?

  • How does the movie deal with suicide? What message is imparted?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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