Waking Life (2001)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, some interesting discussions

Low on plot and high on philosophy

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Waking Life

Studio:  Thousand Words

Genre(s):  Animated/Drama

Release Date(s):  January 23, 2001 (Sundance Film Festival)/October 19, 2001 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


So….been animated much?

A young man (Wiley Wiggins) finds himself floating through life and only to realize that he’s trapped in a dream.  As he wanders around, he speaks to the people about the reality of dreams and what they mean in regards to life. With fears that he could really be dead, the man just wants to wake up.  Could all of life just be another dream?

Directed by Richard Linklater, Waking Life was an experimental film.  The movie received a small release and mixed reaction from critics.  It is noted for the second appearance of Linklater’s decades spanning couple Jesse and Céline from Before Sunrise played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in one of the dream sequences.


The Holy Moment!

I saw Waking Life in the theater.  It was an odd film and completely original…unfortunately, it was also rather boring.  Now years have passed since its release and I watched it again…I found it more interesting than boring on a second viewing and was more interested in the messages.

The movie is primarily a philosophy lesson.  The unnamed young man walks around and overhears conversations about the reality of reality.  Most of these talk about the idea of dreams and how dreams and waking life tie together.


Bored? Try to stay focused….

It is through the exploration of these ideas that the man determines he’s trapped in his dream.  It is implied that the man could be dead, dying, or trapped in a coma.  I find this rather horrifying.  He says he doesn’t mind the dream because it is a good dream, but the idea of continuously “waking up” and never waking up is somewhat frightening.

The star of the film is Wiley Wiggins who previously appeared in Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.  Linklater taps into his other actors with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s appearance.  The movie also features real philosophers telling some of their own theories.


Freaking out…It will all be ok.

The primary thing that many will take away from Waking Life is the unique visuals.  The movie was rotoscoped which isn’t a new technique by any means.  The movie was shot with live actors and then animated.  What makes Waking Life different is that the rotoscope was then manipulated to give the movie a strange wavy feel…much like a dream.  It is visually stunning and Linklater returned to this visual for the film A Scanner Darkly with Keanu Reeves.

Waking Life isn’t for everyone and it has to hit you when you are in the right mode.  You will zone out watching the film and some of the discussions will be more interesting to you than others.  If you like philosophy, you might enjoy this movie as well…it probably is more “pop” philosophy than a real student would like, but it is a fun trip.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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