Sleeplessly Yours Review: A potent relationship drama elevated by its two leads
In terms of emotional heft and dramatic depth, this is definitely up there with some of the superior relationship dramas we have seen from outside India.
Sleeplessly Yours is one of those rare festival films that doesn't look and sound like a festival film. In other words, it's not a typical 'award' film that may put off the general public. It is replete with engaging conversations and has two talented actors looking and sounding like real people. The two directors, Goutham Soorya and Sudeep Elamon, make every minute of the film's 70-minute duration count. Not a single minute or frame is wasted.
Cast: Sudev Nair, Devaki Rajendran
Director: Goutham Soorya, Sudeep Elamon
The film begins in medias res: a man Jessy (Sudev Nair) wakes up to find his partner Manu (Devaki Rajendran) missing. What follows, naturally, is a search but not one involving the cops. Jessy's friend berates him for his inability to recall what happened, and, above all, getting involved with a volatile girl. We also learn that the couple were experimenting with sleep deprivation which may or may not have caused her disappearance.
What we get to see is a relationship being dissected through two different timelines. The first one is a showreel from an invisible narrator showing us, in intermittent doses, what actually transpired before Jessy woke up. The second timeline, which is the present, runs parallelly to the first. All kinds of questions are running through Jessy's head, and he even brings up the possibility of her murder, by his own hands.
A former journalist, Jessy's first encounter with Manu, narrated in flashbacks, happens when he interviews her for a story. She happens to be a yoga instructor and the place she works at is the only address Jessy is aware of. (In the present, we can see that he didn't bother investigating further.) There is an instant connection and everything seems hunky dory in the initial stages. However, as the film progresses and their experiment begins to work its "magic", their innermost thoughts come out to wreak havoc. He wants commitment and attention 24x7 whereas she is distant and emotionless, much to his chagrin.
Is it the sleep deprivation that's causing this sudden shift in mood, or would things play out exactly the same way if they hadn't engaged in this experiment? As Jessy's memories continue to play tricks, he finds it increasingly difficult to put all the pieces together. The filmmakers' approach here is raw and minimalist, letting the actors do the talking most of the time instead of the camera, which sometimes observes things from a distance and occasionally in close proximity.
Sudev and Devaki inhabit their characters so well that it's impossible to picture anyone else as Jessy and Manu. Jessy is not so good at handling conflict, and a particularly intense conversation turns into a violent scuffle. His attempts to counter Manu's verbal abuses with matching ferocity end up looking more comical than serious. This nasty episode paves the way, in a later scene, to a stunningly revelatory detail from Devaki's past which vaguely explains her sudden disappearance. The ending doesn't offer any neat resolution and it is left to the viewers to interpret it the way they see fit.
In an interview with CE, Goutham Soorya had stated his doubts about getting a theatrical release, and it's easy to see why. The team funded the film from their own pockets because they feared the potency of the narrative would be weakened if left in someone else's hands. In terms of emotional heft and dramatic depth, Sleeplessly Yours is definitely up there with some of the superior relationship dramas we have seen from outside India.