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'Stay Awake' Review

LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic “Stay Awake” is a family drama centered on two brothers who are trying to figure out what’s best for themselves — and their mother, who’s addicted to prescription drugs. Both Steffan Fin Argus, who plays older brother Ethan, and Wyatt Oleff, as high school senior Derek, deliver breakthrough performances. Their complex characters are portrayed with a level of realism rare for the dysfunctional family genre.

Ethan and Derek are in a no-win situation, trying to carve-out their futures while dealing with the miserable and unpredictable situations mom Michelle (played by “This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz) continually puts them through. Their romantic relationships suffer, while college/career opportunities take a back seat to keeping Michelle alive. Every attempt she’s made to stay clean has failed — most spectacularly.

The somber, matter of act tone of “Stay Awake” is highly appropriate. Writer/director Jamie Sisley also does a good job placing us in a small town vibe, where the local bowling alley and ice cream shoppe are the social meccas. The hospital and rehab environments are, for the most part, also depicted accurately.

The supporting performances don’t shine quite as brightly as the three leads. There are a couple of obvious plot conveniences that briefly take you out of the moment. And the final act is a bit messy — though I applaud Sisley for a gutsy final 10-minutes.

“Stay Awake”, which was filmed in NY’s Hudson Valley region, premiered 15 months ago at the 2022 Berlin Film Festival. It’s good that it’s finally being released. If it’s playing at a theater near you, or you find it on VOD soon, give it a shot. This is a tough but worthwhile watch, about obligation, loyalty and hard truth that sometimes those you love can let you down.

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LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic

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