There is a squiggly worm of an idea here, of a woman who has just lost her young son projecting her dreams and yearnings onto a scared eight-year-old her husband and she foster. However, neither the never-unpretty Bosworth has the ability nor director-writer Flanagan the inclination to see this through. And the only one left saying “I am sorry”, repeatedly, literally, is the talented Jacob Tremblay, last seen in the Oscar-winner Room.
Since their child drowned in his bath tub, Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) have been struggling to come to terms with the death. When we meet them, some time has passed and it’s Jessie alone who is left going to group therapy sessions with similar mourning parents. One reason, we suspect, could be the therapist, who 1) must have a major crush on her, as who would not, and focuses just on her to the exclusion of others, and 2) must love his own voice as he keeps droning on about dreams and subconscious through tightly clenched teeth and strictly crossed legs.
Soon after he is brought home, it is also clear that whatever Cody dreams about while sleeping comes alive. And so Cody resists sleep, consuming as much sugar and caffeine as possible. Still, the new foster parents raise no alarm.
At first it is their dead son Shawn who comes in his dreams, to the delight of Jessie. But soon after, as Cody feared, the “Kinka Man” is haunting him, his new home and briefly, even his school.
Haunt, of course, is a euphemism, for this creature inspired by Munch’s Scream generates all but a few giggles. Even if we are willing to grant a child his fears, Before I Wake doesn’t know where it is going now that we have a mother, a dead son, and a scared child in the mix.
A clue or two could be taken from Jane, who goes through the length of this film (and let’s not say breadth) without either a wash or a hair comb. Was he making up for Bosworth’s flawlessness, one wonders. There are a few tender moments he shares with Cody though, which is more than can be said about Bosworth, who tries to act cold and warm in parts and ends somewhere in the zone of tepid. Briefly she also surfaces in doctor overalls, just in case you were wondering about who pays for all that perfection.
Still Bosworth has a better fate than butterflies, born of Cody’s dreams, which swarm forth at first followed by moths when he is going through his sleep cycle. You may never look at a monarch butterfly the same way again. But then, you may never see them that close for that long either.
The biggest disservice though is not even to the butterflies. That would be to the patients of a disease that at least we better leave unmentioned.