From Michael Gondry, the director of the extremely smart romantic-comedy-drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, comes another smart romantic-comedy-drama that once again blends the line between reality and the imagination. Unfortunately, The Science of Sleep isn't nearly as captivating or intriguing, despite a great leading man and another imaginative approach.
The Science of Sleep stars Gael García Bernal as Stéphane, a young Mexican artist in France who has just found a job at a rather dull calendar-making shop. To pass the time, Stéphane's imagination goes wild, and he often pictures his co-workers and friends in a dream world. Much of his time is spent in this other world, but when he meets his pretty neighbor Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), he struggles to maintain a romance that is hardly there. While Stéphanie is accommodating of his active imagination to a point, his crazy antics strain their relationship many times over.
Bernal is one of the most dynamic actors on the market right now, as he can play just about anything effectively. From goofy lover to enthusiastic teen to a drunk Mexican in Babel, he is popping up in more and more movies for a reason. In The Science of Sleep, Bernal once again pulls off a new kind of character, that of a man who is a shell but not much more. Childlike in some ways but certainly not in others, his character is successfully portrayed as someone who is a victim of his own innocence. Wait. I sound like a film critic. I am looking way too deeply into this. In the end, Bernal is good, but The Science of Sleep does not allow him to be as strong as he can be. He spends too much time with a stupid grin on his face, and never really gets to act the spectrum.
The movie itself is good, but not great. Featuring spectacular visuals that should have been nominated as an underdog in the Visual Effects category, The Science of Sleep is certainly wild and creative. The best scenes are when Bernal is in his dream world, but unfortunately, visuals don't make a movie, especially in a drama. The focus of the film, the quasi-romance between the two leads, isn't nearly as interesting as you'd expect it to be. Gondry was clearly going for something unique, but the main relationship just isn't that stimulating. In the end, you really don't care whether they end up together or not.
The Science of Sleep is a smart, edgy romantic drama, but despite a good cast and spectacular visuals, the movie lacks the engagement factor I was looking for. Recommended, but only for those who like offbeat films.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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