Abdulla Alsaleh’s review published on Letterboxd:
Before I start this review, I just want to say two things. The first thing is that this will probably be the last movie that I see in the next few weeks or so, since I’m going to be up against all kinds of assessments and assignments throughout these last few weeks of school. The second thing is that I didn’t realize that I accidentally celebrated my 2nd anniversary of creating my Letterboxd account by watching Miami Vice instead of doing some big celebration. I’ll probably make up for it next year (This was written before I realized that Miami Vice is the greatest movie of the 21st Century. In retrospect, it was the perfect way of celebrating my 2nd anniversary, as it pretty much reignited my love for movies when I rewatched it). Anyway, onto the review.
Recently, @Vinny Simms said that Waking Life was his new favorite movie of all time, and while I did know that Richard Linklater dabbled in animation with A Scanner Darkly (Which I still haven’t seen yet), I had no idea that Waking Life was a Linklater movie until I checked his filmography one day. Obviously, Waking Life is very different from Linklater’s live action movies, at least the ones I’ve seen, but it still feels similar in terms of how the movie’s numerous conversations are presented. I think that what Waking Life does best is capture the limbo state between being awake and being in a dream, and it does so through its gorgeous rotoscoped animation. I’ve been fascinated by rotoscoping since I was a kid, but Waking Life challenged a lot of my perceptions of what rotoscoping is “supposed” to look like, as the blend of minimalist and hyper-detailed styles along with this unique wave-like effect that can be seen on the environments and the characters all adds to the simultaneously dreamlike and realistic atmosphere of Waking Life.
While I did think that Waking Life was a great movie overall, I wasn’t as sure about that as I was watching it. The first half of the movie felt like a series of lectures on life and other existential topics, and while it did have some good moments, like the bar scene and the scene featuring cameos of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprising their roles from the Before trilogy, I was getting more and more tired of it during that first half. When the film switched to being primarily about dreams rather than all of these other broad topics, that was when Waking Life became much more engaging with its conversations and ideas. Although I still think that the Before trilogy is the best thing that Richard Linklater has ever made, Waking Life is still a great experimental animated movie, and an incredibly unique one at that.