The Science Of Sleep

The Science Of Sleep

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

If you thought director Michel Gondry needed the mad machinations of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to underscore his flights of fantasy, think again, because his latest venture makes Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind look positively sedate.

The plot concerns Mexican émigré Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal), who moves to France with dreams of making it big as a graphic artist. Dreams are definitely Stephane’s thing, so much so that he has created a television studio in his mind, where he, literally, cooks up recipes for his flights of fancy, which generally involve a lot of colour and vivid stop-motion animation.

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Back in the real world, he strikes up a relationship with his equally creative, but slightly off-the-wall, neighbour Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsboroug, so ethereal she makes Cate Blanchett look butch). As the two of them struggle to connect – not helped by Stephane’s tortuously bad chat-up lines and an obsession that borders on stalking – it becomes increasingly unclear where the dreaming stops and the living starts, both to Stephane and the audience.

There is no denying that this is a visual treat from beginning to end. Stephane rides with Stephanie across egg box landscapes, as sweetie-wrapper water tumbles from taps in animation, reminiscent of that which poured out of Eastern Europe in the Seventies, and every aspect of reality is tinged with the unreal. But like many wild rides, while this may leave many feeling exhilarated, others will feel dizzy by the end, since Gondry lacks the narrative fortitude of Kaufman and frequently gets so caught up in an idea that he forgets to take the rest of us with him.

It is the performances that keep the film, at least occasionally, connected to reality. Bernal and Gainsboroug are giddy and gauche in equal measure and carry you along on a wave of enthusiasm, which leaves you aching with hope that unrequited love will eventually be returned.

Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2007
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The Science Of Sleep packshot
A man's mind goes into over-drive as he tries to woo the woman of his dreams.
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Director: Michel Gondry

Writer: Michel Gondry

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Miou-Miou, Pierre Vaneck, Emma de Caunes, Aurélia Petit, Sacha Bourdo, Stéphane Metzger, Alain de Moyencourt, Inigo Lezzi

Year: 2006

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France/Italy

Festivals:

Sundance 2006

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind