Stay Awake is a film based on the life of writer and director Jamie Sisley. He tells this story of his teenage years when he and his brother had to battle their mother’s addiction for prescription drugs.
Derek (Fin Argus) and Ethan (Wyatt Oleff) are the two brothers at the center of this story. We get to see how they manage some of the most trying times in their lives helping their mother Michelle (Chrissy Metz) with her addiction.
17- year-old Ethan, wants to go to college whilst Derek who is 2 years older wants to pursue a career in acting. But all of this remains dreams and almost out of their reach as they are constantly held back by their mother’s addiction.
They are forced to place her first and anytime it seems like things are finally getting better, she relapses and they sucked back in the cycle of putting her first.
Between the two brothers, Derek appears the most concerned about their mother’s wellbeing. For him he is willing to give her as many chances to get her healthy and clean from addiction. He is struggling bur he foes well to keep it mostly to himself. He is forced to the source of strength and the backbone of the family when he really doesn’t have to. Even in his silence you can tell that he is struggling with the situation but can’t afford to break.
For Ethan, he is tired and wants to move on with his life. He sees Michelle’s inability to break her bad habit as signs of her being a failed mother. Afterall, a parent is supposed to be the one responsible for her children and not the other way around. Ethan sees college as his way to escape it all. But he equally finds it hard to leave his brother behind and so he acts out.
The bond between the brothers themselves and also between they and their mother is tested at every turn. They want the best for her, but does she want the same for herself? Is she willing to fight the addiction with them?
Michelle might seem like she is on a mission of self-destruct all the time, but she is mother who still loves her sons. There is s scene where she gets out of her hospital bed to cover her sleeping boys up. But her addiction always gets the better part of her. She is seen constantly coming up with reasons and ways for her unsuspecting doctor to write her a prescription. She is out of the hospital and in no time back to her bad habits that sometimes endangers the lives of her kids.
The two lead actors Argus and Oleff are perfect choice for the roles. They bring to bear some boyish innocence and genuineness that adds up to how the audience is forced to react to their situations. They are an absolute delight to watch in these roles conveying all the right emotions that the characters need. Even if it’s just a lengthy exchange of dialogue between them two, you can feel their commitment in ensuring that the characters very relatable to the audience.
The film uses a decent pace to convey its message without overbearing you with emotions. It simply seeks to show how addiction affects the lives of the loved ones of the addict. How it tears them down and ruins their lives too.
It’s impressive how this film captures the pain and anguish of what addiction can do to a family. We get to see through the eyes of others rather than the addict the extent that substance abuse can go to destroy the lives of many. It honest, simple yet powerful enough to make you feel the significance for a story like this to be told.
It doesn’t focus on just the gloomy, sad bits. Ethan manages to still keep a somewhat normal social life as he works at a bowling alley where is he often the center of attraction for high school girls. He also keeps his dream of being an actor a live by pursuing TV commercial gigs.
The is also a subtle backstory on Derek and his silent struggles with his sexuality. We see him grow jealous as his ex-girlfriend begins to get involved with a guy, he seems to be interested in himself.
Overall, this is worth a watch. For anyone that has had to care for any loved one struggling with any form of addiction, this would be very relatable. It also serves as good testament to the power of love and the importance oof family
I would rate this ‘Stay Awake’ 7/10. It dares to tackle a known subject from a very unique perspective that is often overlooked and it nails it whiles serving an emotional narrative.
If you have time to spare you have to watch this. Albeit being slowed paced, you are sure to be sucked in by this melodrama as you seek a happy ending for the brothers.