The entire movie is pretty bleak. Awake stars Gina Rodriguez as Jill, an ex-soldier and mother of a young girl, Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt), and a teenage boy, Noah (Lucius Hoyos), who tries to figure out what the hell is going on when, basically, everything stops working, including humans' ability to sleep. The other problem is that Matilda is one of only two known people who can sleep, so researchers want to do experiments on her in an effort to save humanity. Time is of the essence, because — as a scientist whose name should be Dr. Exposition explains — everyone's bodies will soon stop functioning due to lack of sleep and the process is moving two to three times faster than it normally would. Chilling! During their journey to a research hub where Matilda has been summoned, Jill and her family face countless acts of disturbing and gory violence, in addition to hallucinations. You see? Bleak.
The issue is that Awake takes this very complicated premise, doesn't explain it entirely, and proceeds to pile on the plot holes. It's also only an hour and a half long, but once you start watching it, you're trapped; for all its faults, Awake certainly makes you wonder where on Earth this is all leading.
Toward the end of the movie, Jill, Matilda, and Noah reach the science facility where an elderly woman (Joan Gregson) who can sleep is being researched. The soldiers and scientists there have some sort of injection that is supposed to help them stay alert, but basically everyone is still slowing dying and suffering from hallucinations. A bunch of military people all start killing each other and anyone else they can find. The doctors are suspicious and creepy.
In the giant mess of violence, Matilda and Jill try to escape, but Noah gets electrocuted. It's not fully explained why there is electricity at this one place, and nowhere else, other than that the military have stuff other people don't. After that, Matilda and Jill try to revive him with a defibrillator, but don't "clear" — or stop touching his body — so they both also receive a shock and pass out. Well, Jill doesn't fully pass out, because she is unable to be unconscious, according to the rules of this movie.
The next morning, Matilda wakes up and notices that Noah is not dead, but sleeping. Because he slept, Noah is now lucid like Matilda, but Jill is still out of sorts and her body is failing. Soon, though, Matilda realizes something: She asks Noah if she died when they all got in a car crash at the beginning of the movie and their car was submerged in a lake. Naturally, there were a lot of car crashes when all the world's cars suddenly stopped working.
Matilda, Jill, and Noah escaped the car, but Matilda was briefly unconscious. Matilda realizes that if she died, came back to life, and can sleep, and Noah died, came back to life, and can now sleep, then dying must be the secret. Plus, that old lady had been on her deathbed before the world changed, so it seems like she briefly died at some point, too. (That lady does actually die, by the way.)
Matilda and Noah then decide that the way to save their mother is to kill her and bring her back to life. They have to do it in a way where she can be revived, so they drown her and then perform CPR. The image of these children forcibly drowning their mother is beyond disturbing. The movie ends with a close up on Jill's eyes as she suddenly takes in a big gasp of air. The plan worked.
But, the family's future isn't looking good. The world has descended into madness. People are killing each other or dying as their organs fail. Noah and Matilda have no way of sharing their discovery. And even if they did, the discovery means that all humans need to die and then be brought back to life — a complicated undertaking, to say the least. Plus, what of the electricity? The cars? The weird satellites that Noah spotted in the sky? Whatever the military was up to?
It's hard to know what Awake is trying to do. At times it seems like a commentary on PTSD in the military, at others an allegory about religion. The beginning of the movie features a pastor (Barry Pepper) and his angry congregation; the drowning scene is reminiscent of a baptism. There's also the fact that we're only left with one family potentially surviving on Earth alone and one of those family members is literally named Noah, which is very Book of Genesis.
But... why? When Matilda asks if she "started over" when she briefly died, it's clearly supposed to mean something about humans needing to begin again, but what, in this scenario, are humans supposed to have done wrong? The movie never makes that clear.
So, instead of Awake leaving viewers feeling hope when Jill awakes or pondering some sort of larger, dark metaphor, the ending only shows us that Jill and her kids survived and that hardly anyone else will. Well, unless they find it within themselves to organize a worldwide drowning and reviving event extremely quickly.
All I'm saying is it seems like a weird choice, you know?