As with most science fiction, Insomnia requires a certain suspension of disbelief. However, I found that some of the things I was being asked to take at face value were a bit too far-fetched. Parker claims he hasn’t slept in four years, so why has it taken his mother this long to notice the effects of his lack of sleep? How am I supposed to believe it’s taken her four years to suggest that he go to the doctor if he’s been having trouble sleeping? And considering it’s been four years, why does Parker only feel a sense of urgency about his situation once the doctor confirms that someone can die from the effects of sleep deprivation? I understand that Parker was able to get a sense of rest when he “slept” while his Dreamer was still awake, which would explain how he was able to make it so long without sleep, but I didn’t understand why his visit to the doctor seemed to increase the speed with which his body deteriorated – especially considering it was shortly after his visit to the doctor that he managed to get in a few nights of restful sleep, thanks to Mia.
Fortunately, I was mostly able to shove most of these issues to the side, because I really enjoyed Insomnia’s initial setup. Watching Parker experience dreams was fascinating, and I really enjoyed the detail Johansson went in to with describing his experiences with them. The way the Dreamer’s emotions washed over Parker, engulfing him completely in the moment, and the way the dreams were described as occurring in layers, made for such vivid imagery that I often felt like I was experiencing the dream alongside Parker. I also found that many of Parker’s anxieties over not sleeping were founded in a reality I appreciated, with his tremors increasing in frequency and his ability to focus meagre at best. When he found solace in Mia’s dreams, I understood his frenetically manic desire to experience that kind of peaceful sleep every night. While it didn’t fully excuse all of his stalkerish actions, it did allow me to empathize with the drastic measures he took in order to ensure he could sleep.
Unfortunately, after Insomnia’s initial setup, the plot took a predictable turn and stayed on a steadily typical course until its conclusion. While I appreciated Parker’s unreliable narration, I kept waiting for him to get caught being unreliable; I wanted his friends to notice that he was hallucinating, or for something big to happen which sent Parker into a downward spiral where he began to truly panic over his loss of control on reality. Parker seemed to approach his psychosis with acceptance, however, which removed a lot of the suspense and tension I had been feeling about his narration. It also made me doubt his unreliable narration, which might explain why I wasn’t surprised by Insomnia’s final twist at the end.
With a rather unique and intriguing premise, Insomnia had a lot going for it. And while certains aspects lived up to my expectations for this psychological thriller, others failed to reach their full potential. While I don’t think that Insomnia will be a read that stays with me long, I would be interested in reading the sequel in order to learn more about Parker’s father, Parker’s ability, and how the two are connected.