‘State Like Sleep’ is a big snore despite its compelling cast

Actress Katherine Waterston once again rocks a bowl cut like nobody else (seriously, I can’t think of another woman who could genuinely pull off this hairdo) in the moody, aimless “State Like Sleep.”

She’s playing a photographer, also named Katherine, whose movie-star husband’s (Michiel Huisman) violent death has left a raft of questions and confusion in its wake. At the time of his death, their marriage was filled with turbulence.

Writer-director Meredith Danluck (“The Ride”) seems to be going for a noir ambience, teasing the question of the dead man’s possible underworld entanglements and bringing in Michael Shannon — whose mere presence oozes sinister intrigue — as a mysterious new love interest for Katherine. Luke Evans (TV’s “The Alienist”) shows up as a skeevy nightclub owner who might know more than he’s letting on.

But the plot drifts around as insubstantially as smoke, only gaining traction when it’s centered on Katherine’s twinned grief over the death and her mother (the also reliably great Mary Kay Place) being hospitalized with a brain tumor. Shannon classes up every scene he’s in, too, but there aren’t enough of them and he’s ultimately given little to do.

Despite the film’s wispiness, though, there is always something compelling about Waterston, who is usually the best part of any film she’s in (see also: “Inherent Vice,” “Alien: Covenant”). She supplies a lot more storytelling with facial expressions than the screenplay, which fails to flesh out Katherine’s personality or her dead husband’s secrets, or to make you care about either of them.

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