Before I Sleep short film review

★★★★

Directed by: Victoria Shefer

Written by: Victoria Shefer

Starring: Lee Rayne

Film Review by: Jason Knight

Movie Poster for Before I Sleep

A woman is by herself at the beach.


This short drama is based on the poem by American poet Robert Frost: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, which was published in 1923 in his New Hampshire volume.


A woman (Rayne) arrives on foot at an empty beach. She appears to be sad and upset. She has a locket necklace with her, that contains the picture of a baby and seems to be very dear to her. She digs up a small chest, that is filled with origami figures and places the necklace inside. Throughout the film she gives the impression that she is struggling with her emotions.


The woman is the only person seen in this story and the only words that are heard come from the protagonist's voice-over, which recites the lyrics from Frost's poem mentioned above. The film is separated into four verses. Each time a verse begins the screen cuts to black and letters appear, announcing the number of the verse. During each verse sequence, the voice-over recites a section of the poem. The voice sounds sad, even indicating that the reciter is crying.


The mood is melancholic. Rayne's performance gives the impression that she is portraying someone who has suffered a tragedy. The sky is grey, looking like it is about to rain. Daniel Dolby's powerful score is haunting, suggesting grief and it is heard from start to finish, along with the sound of waves reaching the beach. Having the sound of waves and the dramatic music simultaneously makes the viewing quite emotional. Apart from the waves, music, voice-over and a brief sequence of heavy breathing, no other sounds are present.


The woman's clothing looks great and appears to be from the nineteen twenties, which would be the time when the poem was published.


The film is very well made, with Shefer creating terrific establishing shots. There is a montage sequence that deserves recognition. In this sequence the woman is seen running in the waves, panicked and distraught. The cries out but her voice has been silenced. The use of fast cutting is rather effective here and the cinematography is different, making the image appear darker. There is also the sound of heavy breathing.


This powerful, emotional drama is a beautiful combination of poetry and cinema. And it is a wonderful homage to Robert Frost.

#JasonKnight