Picking up on the metaphor at the heart of Sleepwalk with Me isn’t the hardest, as it’s both a fairly obvious nod to the central character’s sleep disorder and a testament to those uncertain of their life’s trajectory. Focusing on said affected individual, Mark (Mike Birbiglia), the young lad undergoes a constant struggle to live up to the standards of his archetypal family and girlfriend, pressuring him to simply grow up despite his aspirations of being a stand-up comedian. Get married? Mark doesn’t think he’s ready. Get a job? Mark’s already comfortably filled the role of bartender at a local comedy club.
For as endearing as Birbiglia’s directorial debut is by way of its amiable protagonist and cookie-cutter indie quirks, the latter reigns supreme while familiarity dominates Sleepwalk with Me‘s base structural elements. Relying on instances of literal sleepwalking to overshadow the film’s lifeless tonal shifts is only partially effective, with Birbiglia’s brand of humor assuredly not tickling everyone’s fancy. A matter of personal opinion, sure, however the film’s rarely as touching as it thinks it is regardless of its semi-autobiographical nature and lighthearted, humanistic approach to the existential crisis at its core.
Sleepwalk with Me is in essence just another indie comedy in the vein of this year’s equally middling Safety Not Guaranteed, relying on a sole gimmick to unevenly overcome its rote plot elements. Birbiglia himself is charming enough and an agreeably unique individual, his chemistry with onscreen girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) palpable, yet there just isn’t enough to distinguish this low-key debut from others of its type. Its mild-mannered exploration of the comedy industry notwithstanding, the film as a whole isn’t as funny or appealingly succinct as it thinks it is but manages to simply entertain all the same.