Doctor Sleep (2019)

Doctor Sleep
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan
Based on: Stephen King‘s novel
Sequel to: The Shining
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Selena Anduze, Robert Longstreet, Carel Struycken, Zackary Momoh, Jocelin Donahue, Bruce Greenwood, Sallye Hooks, Alex Essoe, Jacob Tremblay
Seen on: 27.11.2019

Content Note: antiziganism

Dan (Ewan McGregor) has had a rough go of it. The only way he knew how to deal with his supernatural abilities was to drown it in alcohol. But he is trying to change and to get a fresh start in a small town in New Hampshire. Once he is settled there, he realizes that another person with the same abilities, but stronger, is reaching out to him – a young girl called Abra (Kyliegh Curran). Abra knows that something bad is happening to kids like her – and she needs Dan’s help to figure it all out.

Doctor Sleep has the difficutl tasl of being a sequel to a book and a film which deviate from one another, and it does manage to make something interesting from those diverging predecessors. But the film’s blatant antiziganism is a huge problem.

The film poster showing a red hallway with Dan (Ewan McGregor) wallking towards a boy on a tricycle.

Stephen King stories are no strangers to antiziganism, but the length to which it goes here is really quite astounding: the movie villains The True Knot (headed by Rebecca Ferguson) are people who travel from place to place to snatch children which is pretty much the Worst Of Antiziganism, Anniversary Edition. You’d think that in this day and age people would have learned, but apparently not. There isn’t even the slightest subversion of that trope, nothing – it comes straight-up. And even if Rebecca Ferguson really nails the role, it’s a character in a setting that never should have been written. And since it’s not a small part of the film, it marred the entire experience for me.

And I didn’t go into the film expecting too much. I am not a huge fan of Kubrick’s Shining and it’s been too long that I read the novel to really have any reliable memory of it. (I never even touched the sequel.) Doctor Sleep does have some nice nods to the source material, especially the film that will probably delight fans a lot. For me it was kinda okay.

Dan (Ewan McGregor) staring at the wall where the word "Murder" is wirtten in cracks.

There are good things about the film: the cinematography is often beautiful, and McGregor and Curran are a well-matched pair of protagonists. However, the best scene of the film doesn’t involve either, but is the scene were The True Knot torture and kill a little boy (Jacob Tremblay). The scene is harsh (to put it mildly), and Tremblay’s performance really elevates it beyond the rest of the film. I spent much of the film slightly bored, but in that moment, I was captivated and horrified.

Nevertheless, in the end my boredom (though nothing compared to the boredom of Kubrick films) destroyed whatever appreciation I had left for the film after all the antiziganism. I wish it had been better – there was potential for it. But alas, it obviously wasn’t meant to be.

Abra (Kyliegh Curran) standing in a snowy maze.

Summarizing: Unless you’re an absolute Shining fan, skip it.

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