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A tripartite character portrait is set against the backdrop of a police hunt for a serial killer of elderly women, in Claire Denis' brilliantly observed study of immigrant anxiety and urban alienation.
Loosely based on the real-life 1987 Montmartre "Granny Killer" case, I Can't Sleep deftly interweaves the stories of three protagonists: Daïga (Katerina Golubeva), a beautiful young Lithuanian woman who barely speaks French, and has just arrived in Paris' 18th arrondissement hoping to reconnect with a former lover; Théo (Alex Descas), an out-of-work musician struggling to keep his marriage together while raising a young son and planning to move back to his native Martinique; and Théo's younger brother Camille (Richard Courcet), a transvestite nightclub performer living in a sadomasochistic relationship with his boyfriend. Setting this tripartite portrait against the backdrop of a police hunt for a serial killer who has robbed and murdered several elderly women in the neighbourhood, Denis brilliantly evokes the alienation of outsiders in French society, and ultimately confronts the audience with the face of an evil that might very much resemble their own. "Denis keeps us on our toes constantly, not via plot revelations, or even cumulative incident, but by having our senses eternally heightened ... there are certainly very few directors this good at sustaining mood and tone while also wedding every odd choice (for scene and shot duration, for musical queue) to a greater cinematic philosophy" (Michael Koresky, Reverse Shot).