“Doctor Sleep” is the sequel to the 1980 film “The Shining,” directed by Oscar winner Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey) and written for the screen by Kubrick and Diane Johnson (Writers of Northern California). The film “Doctor Sleep” is an adaptation of prolific author Stephen King’s novel of the same name, which was published on September 24, 2013 by Scribner. In the film, Dan Torrance, portrayed in a nuanced manner by Golden Globe winner Ewan McGregor (Fargo), is no longer the young child, who first learned of his special abilities, and watched his father Jack Torrance, played in the film “The Shining” by three time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson (As Good as it Gets), descend into madness, brought on by the evil in the Overlook Hotel. Like his father Jack, Dan has become an alcoholic, but unlike his father, who was functioning as a school teacher and an aspiring writer, Dan is a deadbeat drifter whose life seemingly has no purpose. He is still trying to put the horrific events of his traumatic past behind him, but it is not until the kindness of Cliff (Billy Freeman), a stranger who he meets in a small New Hampshire town, that he’s able to break somewhat free from the tragedy of his childhood that plagues his waking thoughts, and get himself sober with the help of regularly attending AA meetings. (As an aside: The novel “The Shining” was published on January 28, 1977 by Doubleday).
The past, however, as far as Dan’s life is concerned, won’t stay dormant for long. While working at a nursing home, Dan uses his abilities to comfort those who are in their final moments of life; because of this, he earns the nickname Doctor Sleep. Dan is not the only person who has unique abilities. Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) is a teenage girl who is extraordinarily gifted and because of her powers, she is being sought out by a group of deadly individuals known as The True Knot, led by the enigmatic Rose The Hat portrayed by Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen). Rose, who uses her good looks and charm to lull people into a false sense of security, before her real intentions are made clear, is keen on capturing Abra. The True Knot, to put it bluntly, want to kill her, not only because she is a threat to their power, but because her steam, which is what The True Knot crave above everything else, will help Rose’s band of diabolical individuals heal and stay young. Dan, when he learns of the existence of The True Knot and their intentions with Abra, is willing to go to any lengths to protect her, even if it means journeying back to the place, where in essence, his childhood ended – the closed down Overlook Hotel.
The film was written and directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush), as previously mentioned, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Flanagan, to his credit, takes from “The Shining” and uses the material in an appropriate manner, but the sequel expands upon the world in which the story takes place, and certainly stands on its own. The film is comprised of the genres of drama, fantasy, horror and thriller. Premiering on October 30, 2019 in France, the film has a runtime of 152 minutes; there is also a director’s cut, which has a runtime of 181 minutes. The score composed by The Newton Brothers (The Haunting of Hill House) does a competent job of capturing the right tone for each scene. (As an aside: Stephen King, as is widely known, didn’t like the film that Kubrick made based on “The Shining.” Mike Flanagan had to convince King that he could make “Doctor Sleep” a film that could stand on its own, but he would need to include certain elements of Kubrick’s film, so that “Doctor Sleep” could be considered a direct sequel. King agreed to what Flanagan had to say, and reportedly was pleased with the finished product).
One aspect that I found hampered my enjoyment of the film, apart from the brutal on-screen death of a gifted baseball player (Jacob Tremblay), was the runtime. I felt that certain scenes could have been edited down or removed from the finished film, and it would have made the movie’s pacing better, because, at least to me, there seems to be too much of a buildup taking place for the first half of the film. There were interesting moments, and certain characters were able to be fleshed out, but a lot of secondary characters were largely ignored. I thought to myself, when I finished watching the film, that those people who went to the movies, or watched at home, just for Dan’s return trip to the Overlook Hotel, are going to have to sit through a lengthy amount of film before the haunted grounds are utilized in the movie, and when they are, it is probably for less time than most viewers who are there for that reason will like.
Will Dan be able to set foot inside the Overlook Hotel? Can he confront the ghosts that still reside there, especially, the ghost of his father? Can Dan and Abra end The True Knot? Will it be Rose The Hat who triumphs over Abra and Dan, having lived her evil ways for longer than either of them have been alive? All of those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.
Do I feel that “Doctor Sleep” is destined to become a classic film like its predecessor? No, I don’t. Will there be conspiracy theories as to what’s really going on in the film? Are people going to look for hidden clues in every frame, hoping to unlock the mystery of what the filmmaker was trying to say? The answer, in my opinion, is that it is highly doubtful. From time to time, people had asked Stephen King what had happened to Dan. He finally decided to explore the answer, and the finished product was the novel, and by extension, Flanagan’s movie, which differs from the novel in several key ways. All and all it is an entertaining film, well acted by the cast. For fans of “The Shining,” the King novel, and also of the Kubrick film, it offers a chance to find out what happened to the little boy who, decades earlier, ran out into the freezing Colorado night with his mother to escape their ax wielding father and husband.