While You Were Sleeping

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writers: Daniel G. Sullivan, Fredric LeBow

  • Sandra Bullock — Lucy Moderatz
  • Jason Bernard — Jerry Wallace
  • Peter Boyle — Ox Callaghan
  • Peter Gallagher — Peter Callaghan
  • Glynis Johns — Elsie
  • Monica Keena — Mary Callaghan
  • Micole Mercurio — Midge Callaghan
  • Bill Pullman — Jack Callaghan
  • Michael Rispoli — Joe Fusco Jr.
  • Ally Walker — Ashley Bartlett Bacon
  • Jack Warden — Saul

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: 1988

108 minutes April 2005


While You Were Sleeping is a romantic comedy film, light and happy, with almost no dark lines other than those inherent in the romantic or comedic tangle, keeping the plot taut.

Sandra Bullock is Lucy Moderatz, a lonely young woman in Chicago, working a fare window at an Elevated Railway station, wishing she could find someone to love. Christmas is at hand but the season's family togetherness and warmth for many people is gong to pass her by, just like the stream of people passing her ticket window: no family of her own, no loving man to share the holidays. Her daydreams focus particularly on one fellow, Peter Callaghan (played by Peter Gallagher), who passes by her window every day: a stranger with no overt contact other than a daily fare token and a nod.

Lucy is nominated by her supervisor to work on Christmas because she's the one with no family except a cat. When Peter Callaghan is knocked unconscious, falling onto the El tracks, Lucy rescues him. And while he remains in a coma in hospital — While You Were Sleeping — she finds herself entangled in his family life, accidentally playing a role as Peter's heretofore unknown fiance and irresistibly drawn into the Christmas holidays of the family. She is uncomfortable about joining in with these people who really are strangers, but it is a strong mutual desire, hard to resist.

Bill Pullman is the comatose man's brother Jack who develops a pointed skepticism about Lucy's version of events. He, along with gruff Peter Boyle as the brothers' father, and wise Jack Warden as an old family friend, anchor the homey Callaghan family life that so attracts Sandra. Michael Rispoli is excellent as Sandra's landlord's oafishly romantic son. Jason Bernard is Sandra's boss at the El, good for practical advice. And Ally Walker is the sleeping Peter Callaghan's luckily absent girlfriend. A fine cast all around.

While You Were Sleeping is an easy, light, and quite enjoyable movie. It is much smoother and happier than Sandra Bullock's earlier Love Potion #9, which has a fantasy (or science fiction) theme of biological emotional control which is way too substantial for the erratic treatment there.

Since While You Were Sleeping has scarcely a hint of such danger and plotting and derring-do as she handles along with romance and comedy in her later Miss Congeniality, it is a purer romance. There is plenty of humor as well as romantic suspense, well mixed throughout.

As usual Sandra Bullock's range of facial expressiveness is very good, providing the heroine with a considerable part of her charm.


© 2005 Robert Wilfred Franson

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