Is Jonas Elrod an ordinary guy? The focus of a documentary, Elrod one day began to see angels, demons, entities, and auras. He saw a burst of light come forth from his best friend’s chest; the following day the friend died in a motorcycle accident.
Those of us who don’t see entities might suspect that Elrod is schizophrenic, has a brain tumor, is doing mighty hallucinogens, or is a fake. He visits psychiatrists who say he is not schizophrenic, he has a scan that reveals that his brain is healthy, he is not taking drugs, and he says what he sees is real, not hallucination.
Elrod is the “star,” of Wake Up, a documentary that follows him around the country, and around the world, seeking to discover what he is experiencing and why. It is an intimate portrait of one man’s spiritual journey.
Taking part in a sweat lodge, visiting a mystic, and trying acupuncture are only a few of the avenues he follows, looking for answers. Elrod’s girlfriend, Mara, struggles with what he is experiencing. At first she suspected he was schizophrenic and told herself “Okay, we can deal with that.” But Elrod does not appear to be suffering from any psychosis or mental illness. In fact, he seems profoundly innocent, the proverbial “babe in the wood.”
A medium in Italy uses thermal photography to show Elrod the hot spots around him, and there is one that looks like a popular conception of an alien. The medium assures him that there is no reason for him to be afraid, an alien presence is using him as its eyes.
The camera follows Elrod when he visits his parents to break the news to his father. He starts to tell him, then says that he thought—as a joke—he would tell him that he was gay. Dad’s eyes nearly pop out of his head. Elrod assures his father that he is not gay, that he was going to say he was and when Dad got over the initial shock he was going to tell him about his visions. Dad expresses relief that his son is straight, but he doesn’t seem to comprehend what Elrod is experiencing. His parents believe God is sending him a message.
As Elrod visits various religious leaders, spiritualists, healers, and new age philosophers, he seems skeptical about their interpretations of his experience, many of which concern quantum theory and global consciousness. He is looking for help—enlightenment—but he is not naïve enough to accept every theory that’s thrown at him. Science has little comfort to offer.
Wake Up is the story of a man’s struggle to understand why he is different, what’s causing the difference, and how to end it. It also tells the story of Jonas and Mara’s relationship, and how it is affected by his experiences. It does not tell us much about Elrod. We don’t know if he’s an ordinary man with an ordinary life who is having extraordinary experiences, because Wake Up reveals very little about his life beyond those experiences.
One wishes that co-director Chloe Crespi (Jonas Elrod also directed) had delved a little deeper into Elrod’s past and into the more pedestrian aspects of his life. Depending on the viewer’s perspective and belief in spirituality, Wake Up is either an earnest depiction of spirituality or a fraud. It is an interesting look at a variety of philosophies and theories about the unseen world around us, from both sectarian and non-sectarian viewpoints.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Wake Up? I’d most likely stream it—I found it intellectually stimulating but strangely lacking in depth.