Release: 2019. Director: Mike Flanagan
Full disclosure, I love this movie. I think it is a shame that it has done so poorly at the box office thus far ($15m in its first weekend) and you as a reader should go see it. Granted it won’t be for everyone, for reasons that I will get into later, but I for one think this is a fantastic film and a deserving sequel to the already incredible The Shining.
Danny (Ewan McGregor) wasn’t the same after the events at the Overlook hotel. He slipped into a world of addiction and pain as he tries to deal with his shinning. He drifts around until he befriends a kind man, Billy (Cliff Curtis), who welcomes Dan into his town and gives him a good job and a comfy home. There he finds support for his addiction and is able to live a good life. He learns to trap the demons from the Overlook into his shinning, healing and bettering himself for the future. But his pen pal for years, a young girl named Abra, is hunted by a group of individuals who feast on those with “shinning” to give them everlasting life. They are strong, but Danny knows a place where no one leaves quite the same as when they entered…
I was worried about the setting this film had presented itself in. It is a faithful adaptation of King’s novel while also being a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which is famous for having a different take on the book it is based on. Doctor Sleep needed to tiptoe over a fine line between both to please the fans of either side, and I can happily say that it does an incredible job. For a good majority of the movie it has a brisk but steady pace with it’s characters and builds up the tension between good and evil. You cheer for the hero’s because you understand their struggle, and what is most impressive is the way you fully relate to Danny because of what we know as an audience from The Shining. It is very impressive how this works stands on it’s own film while also being a damn fine sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining.
Ewan McGregor is, of course, absolutely incredible here. A full force, shining (get it?) through with pain and addiction and when he finds his peace you feel for Danny and wish him only the best for what life he has left after the torment he endured during his childhood. Also, I won’t spoil why, but the reason for the title Doctor Sleep while not important for the understanding of the story is one of the best moments of the film. There are still two standout performances in this, Abra (Kyliegh Curran) and Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson.) Both of them, even with Kyleigh being so young, bring everything to the table in this and blow the screen away. I love both characters, from how badass and straightforward Abra is in her goals to how manipulative and evil Rose the Hat is portrayed. Some of the supporting cast can be hit or miss at times, but the tour de force of these three carry the film all the way to the very end.
I will get the one complaint I have with this film out of the way. Up until the third act, the pacing and story is tight and compelling. Of course everything must come to an ultimate confrontation as good and evil must meet face to face. The build-up to this point was also well established, I understood the stakes and was itching to see how it would turn out. It was at this point where the solid foundation and pacing just falls flat as it feels like the writers just couldn’t decide how to properly end it. It feels rushed, which is a shame since up to this point it had perfectly set itself up. I won’t say I am dissatisfied with the ending as a whole, I think the characters end in the very way I would have wanted, but the penultimate confrontation was underwhelming.
I can’t get over just how much I love the ideas presented in Doctor Sleep, even with the ending the way it is. The concept of “shining” was just something glossed over in Kubrick’s film, that Danny had a form of “shining” but it was ultimately the hotel and the insanity of Jack that presided over the movie. Here, “shining” is fleshed out. It is unique to everyone who has it, and in some it is just a flicker to those who have a raging fire within them. Danny has had his entire life to perfect his shining, while Abra is new but very powerful with hers. The hunters are fascinating, each with their unique form of shining while also luring and “feasting” on others who have it, giving them everlasting life. Rose the Hat is incredible, being both charming and yet under it all terrifying as she looks for her next “meal.”
I don’t think Doctor Sleep is a masterpiece. While it surprisingly combines a novel adaption and a sequel to a very different film, it does so with the cost of a rushed ending. That shouldn’t dissuade anyone from giving this a chance, Doctor Sleep is one of my new favorite movies of the year and is a great film to add to the collection for anyone who loves Stephen King movies.
Please stay Doctor, I need to sleep now.