Donald Conley's short film Sleep concerns two brothers who are wide awake on what seems to be any traditional morning in their small apartment. However, when a devastating loss occurs, forever changing what we can infer is a life less than ideal, the older brother Rashad (Gregory Willis Barnes) does everything in his power to make his younger sibling Vincent (Eric Ruffin) leave for school early so as not to be disheartened or scarred upon finding out what tragedy has just occurred. One wonders if Rashad has experienced a frightening or uncertain circumstance prior to this one, given his consistently relaxed aura even after learning of the tragedy, or if he is just that mature and content.
At ten minutes long, writer/director Donald Conley doesn't have a lot of time to give us the elaborate background on these boys, nor does he have a great deal of time to make sentimentality cloud the final product. He simply gives Sleep to us in the raw form of showcasing complex emotions of loss and persistency, a goal that would be difficult to accomplish in a full-length film, much less a short film. However, Conley manages to capture Sleep with a commendable naturalism in its emotions, showing two brothers, who already seem incredibly reliant on one another, simply try to survive and make it through another day with the person who has been by their side for as long as they can remember. The performances from Barnes and Ruffin are humble and effective, given the young age of both the boys and the quietly lofty material at hand, and the entire mood Sleep finds itself cocooned in makes for a troubling but optimistic tale of grieving and pushing forward.
Starring: Gregory Willis Barnes, Eric Ruffin, and Mia Y. Anderson. Directed by: Donald Conley.
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