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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Light Sleeper': A Resonant Character Study of a Drug Dealer at a Point of Personal Reckoning

Movie poster for the 1992 film Light Sleeper

Light Sleeper (1992) is an alluring and resonant drama-thriller starring Willem Dafoe as John LeTour, a New York City drug dealer who operates at the behest of Ann (Susan Sarandon), a supplier to premium clientele. When Ann informs LeTour that she is considering a career change, he's left questioning his own unique place in the world.

Beset by incessant insomnia, LeTour is struggling to reconcile Ann's proclamation when he chances upon his former wife Marianne (Dana Delany)—a reunion beset by memories of desperation and co-dependency. He yearns to rekindle his relationship with Marianne and turn his life around, yet their reconvergence proves to be a conspicuous turn of fate for the both of them. Meanwhile a series of drug-related murders plague the city, as police officers slowly encircle LeTour as a person of interest in the unresolved crimes.

Written and directed by veteran American filmmaker Paul Schrader (American Gigolo, First Reformed), Light Sleeper is an absorbing character study illustrating one man's resolute pursuit of personal reclamation. Dafoe is superb in a film tailor-made for his screen presence and sensibilities, delivering a captivating portrayal of existential crisis. Well-situated alongside Schrader's myriad depictions of moral-bankruptcy, it's a thought-provoking and surprisingly graceful ode to the human condition.


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