Patrick Jensen’s review published on Letterboxd:
I have recently watched the Amazon Prime show Undone, an amazing show, which prompted me to seek out Richard Linklater's Waking Life, as it was mentioned as one of the inspirations behind the show. While I was not sure about what I should have expected from this film, I found myself really enjoying this one, even if I do have some minor issues with it.
First and foremost, the use of rotoscoped animation to explore themes such as evolution, the futility of everyday tasks and existentialism worked wonders. The surreal imagery and coloring of the animation further heightened the feeling of overwhelming powerlessness towards the higher powers of capitalist society, as well as further enhancing the wonder of the metaphysical elements of life that make our existence feel about more than just finding a job and procreating. The various discussions we have between our charming and/or eccentric characters all make sure that the film never has a boring moment, and that its meandering focus feels warranted, as everyone by the end of the day are only theorizing about what our lives all add up to. Plus, with the jazzy score, an amazing cast and that exquisite dialogue, it's hard for me not to fall in love with what Richard Linklater presents us with here.
Can it feel navel-gazy to watch? I won't deny that, as many of the sequences could have been cut out to make for a more smooth flow of the ideas presented within the film. I personally could do without the sequence with the two men shooting each other in the bar, as well as the Alex Jones rant, as they did not add anything particular interesting that wasn't conveyed in a better manner in the other sequences. Also, and this might just be pedantic gripe on my behalf, the animation felt way too janky for it to be intentional in my opinion. You might find that an unfair assessment, as I had watched A Scanner Darkly before watching this film, so my expectations of the animation quality might have been to high, admittedly. With that said, I still think it should have been a bit more "out there" with some of the facial animations or settings to further enhance the feeling of how impossible it is to fully grasp the scope of metaphysical themes in relation to one's perception of reality.
In conclusion, Waking Life is a film I recommend to everyone who wants a good deep thought train going on the meaning of existence. It might not be a film for everyone, but I still think you should at least give it a shot if you have yet to watch it.