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Movie Review: The Science of Sleep

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Release Date: September 22, 2006

Experiencing a Michel Gondry film is like watching an adult's life through a child's eyes. Following in the footsteps of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep it is a kaleidoscopic journey into a dream world that only Michel Gondry could compose. Though laced with creativity and originality, the film proves to be somewhat disappointing as it just runs out of gas.

After leaving his home in Mexico, Stéphane (Gael García Bernal) finds himself back in France for a job interview arranged by his mother. He finds the job does not suit his creativity in the way his mother had described, and realizes she was just attempting to bring him closer to her.

Stéphane, who takes very little control of his life, finds solace in his dreams. His subconscious seems to fix any inadequacies or uncertainties that he may encounter during his waking life. It is when Stéphane loses his ability to perceive the difference between dreaming and waking life, things starts to spiral out of control.

A turning point for Stéphane is when he first meets his new neighbor Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Reluctant and shy, he lies about living in the same building as Stéphanie for no apparent reason. Initially attracted to Stéphanie's best friend, Stéphane finds something much deeper within his new neighbor. He appreciates her creativity and open-mindedness to his amusing and sometimes eccentric behavior. The two characters engage in a subtle romance until Stéphane's dreams start to interfere with his everyday relationships.

The film begins with a highly amusing scene that depicts Stéphane's dream world, which happens to be a television show, starring himself. The visuals, costume, and set design are nothing short of stunning. Following in the spirit of Being John Malkovich and Gondry's own film Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, the sets burst with life and character. Each dream sequence is like taking a trip back in time, when a fun afternoon consisted of building a fort out of cardboard boxes and blankets. The film is truly original and touches of personality grace every piece of wardrobe and prop.

The performances by both Bernal and Gainsbourg will have you grinning through most of the film. Bernal is so convincing throughout the entire film anyone could assume that the role of Stéphane was personally built for the young actor. Gainsbourg anchored the film throughout, providing Stéphane with a sense of adequacy throughout the film. Much like previous Gondry films, even the supporting characters have truly unique and purposeful existence throughout the plot.

Where the film falters though, is near its anti-climactic ending. The Science of Sleep leans on the quirky humor and endearing performances, but fails to provide the gratification that would lead someone to call this a romance or even a romantic comedy. Much like any dream, the film was visually arresting, unique and enticing but ended a bit too soon.

Final Grade: C+

The Upside: Visually arresting and an original look into the imaginative life and dreams of some very charming characters.

The Downside: An anti-climactic ending that left me wanting more from the two lead characters.

On the Side: Director Michel Gondry played drums on Kanye West's hit single "Diamonds from Sierra Leone."

Brian Gibson is the Associate Editor of Film School Rejects.

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