There’s probably an “overcoming every obstacle” story behind the five credited directors and six credited writers who made “Deep” in their native Thailand during the COVID pandemic.
And whatever it was — maintaining “protocols,” filming during lockdown, filmmakers getting sick and being replaced — it’s almost certainly more interesting than what they managed to get on the screen.
Glib summary — it’s a tepid Thai “Flatliners.” Good looking young medical students get wrapped up in a deadly experiment not wholly unrelated to their studies. Take a collection of “types” — a med student drowning in debt, a cute online “influencer,” a video game nerd, a grinning son secretly grieving his dead mother — and take away their sleep. That’s the premise.
“Deep” winds up a somewhat lifeless enterprise that manages a suspenseful moment or two almost in spite of itself.
Jane (Panisara Rikulsurakan) and sister June (Warisara Jitpreedasakul) are sibling rivals, living with their grandmother and behind on her mortgage. Jane is badgered about “not quitting” her studies by her closest professor (Dujdao Vadhanapakorn).
That’s how she becomes a well-paid test subject for this German researcher (Kim Waddoup) who is digging into the chemistry of what makes us sleep, and what might prevent us from staying up forever. This “Qratonin” bears looking into, extracting and maybe synthesizing.
For a lot of money, Jane agrees to have a chip implanted that will leech Qratonin out of her system. She’ll wear a monitoring watch, stay awake — something she’s used to doing — and when she hits “0 percent” of that stuff in her system, the chip will be removed.
This is how she meets others wearing the big black watch. Win (Kay Lertsittichai) is the always-smiling classmate who’s sweet on her, Cin (Supanaree Sutavijitvong) is a pageboy haircut influencer pixie, and Peach (Krit Jeerapattananuwong) is the socially-awkward gamenerd who all but stalks her.
They have the chips implanted in their necks, stark orders to not fall asleep (“Or your heart might stop.”) and starker orders to not talk about what they’re doing.
Which is exactly what they do. The compare notes, hang around and bond, “professional insomniacs” who become Team “Non Non,” a Thai-French mashup that means “No sleep.”
As they progress through the “levels” of sleep deprivation, hallucinations, paranoia and their various OCD manias, phobias and the like become major league problems.
As the movie has opened with a student standing on a balcony at Sirindara University, ready to jump to his death, we know the stakes. We stay with the film to see who will sleep and who will die.
The little bits of melodrama that play out as back story — sibling rivalry, demands on an influencer’s time and person, etc. — don’t do much to hold our interest.’
The story is as drab as the laughably simple names — June, Jane, Win, Cin and Peach? What is this, a first draft? And yes, Westerners can count the insane number of letters and syllables that make up real Thai names and exhale, “THANK you for shortening that.”
Little montages showing what the kids do with their newfound riches — bling and boob jobs are on the list — add nothing.
The fact that these are medical students could have raised the stakes beyond the personal, and beyond freaking out when dissecting cadavers. Secretive sleep-deprivation study gets patients killed because their young docs are dozing off mid-diagnosis would have been a promising line of attack.
But no, all these directors and all these screenwriters, and this is what they came up with.
“We stay up, and we stay alive!”
MPA Rating: TV-MA, violence, some profanity
Cast: Panisara Rikulsurakan, Supanaree Sutavijitvong, Kay Lertsittichai, Jeerapattananuwong, Dujdao Vadhanapakorn, Kim Waddoup and Warisara Jitpreedasakul
Credits: Directed by Sita Likitvanichkul, Jetarin Ratanaserikiat, Apirak Samudkidpisan, Thanabodee Uawithya and Adirek Wattaleela, scripted by Sita Likitvanichkul, Kittitat Nokngam, Jetarin Ratanaserikiat, Apirak Samudkidpisan, Wisit Sasanatieng and Thanabodee Uawithya . A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:41