The Science of Sleep
by Andrew James
Gael Garcia Bernal (Amorres Perros, Motorcycle Diaries) plays Steffane; a young, naieve artist who moves back to France under the assumption that he has a new job perfect for his creative talents. He finds his new job extremely boring but decides to stick it out as his next door neighbor is an attractive girl named Stephanie, whom Steffane finds very interesting and appealing. Unfortunately for Steffane, he often times blends his real life with the life of his dreams. He sleep walks at times and when he wakes, isn't always sure if he's actually awake or still dreaming. In The Science of Sleep, the viewer doesn't always know either; which is either really fun and intense or really annoying. You can make that call for yourself. I found it to be a bit of both.
Director Michel Gondry (pronouned Michelle) shows his almost excessive amount of imagination and ingenuity in this film that would work almost as well as a big budget production on broadway. Very little CGI is used (if any) during the dream sequences. Substituted instead by lots of stop-motion photography, cheap but effective props (e.g cardboard boxes for cameras and cars, or puffs of cotton balls representing clouds) and various psychodelic imagery. This artistic license is half of what makes the movie so enjoyable. It is also partly what detracted from some of the story detail and did start to get a little stale by the last 20-30 minutes of the film.
Bernal's performance was terrific. A definite departure from his latest characters (bordering on a tough guy), he shows his "cute," boyish charm in "Science." The best things about this film are Bernal's mannerisms and little phrases that evoke a giggle from pretty much everyone in the audience. Although his character is roughly in his late 20's, Steffane, at many times, acts as though he is 5 years old: with a puppy-dog interest in everything as though he's never seen it before and a simple, charming way of giving off the feeling that he needs to be taken care of at all times. Although we may not be able to understand him, we can all relate to him and can't help but be fascinated and smiling when we see what he's going to do or say next.
One of the weaknesses of the story, which is Gondry's first attempt at directing a story that he himself wrote, is the lack of plot. Entirely too much time is spent in the dream sequences that give us an exceptionally creative and provacative look into Steffane's thoughts. The scenes with Steffane at work are, although funny, pretty much pointless and hold little value to the main story that is Steffane's futile, love interest. Instead of focussing on character development and story depth, there just isn't much here and I walked out of the theater enjoying what I had just seen, but not really feeling much of anything; thinking to myself, "What exactly did I just see?"
Very similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry's previous, and excellent effort); both with male lead characters lusting after a woman they can't, or don't want to have. And both characters having serious bouts with a seriously surreal, mental "disorder" of one kind or another. The problem with "Science" is we don't get that same feeling of lust, saddness and frustration that we felt in "Eternal Sunshine."
Still, The Science of Sleep is so incredibly artistic, creative and inventive, that it was a joy of a spectacle of which I was happy to sit through. And thanks to Bernal's performance and Gondry's unique and fresh directing style, I didn't once feel bored or squirmish in my seat. Blurring the lines of dreams and reality, it is a very cute and playful film that will most certainly bring a smile to your face, even if you're not entirely sure where you are or what you're doing there.
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for The Science of Sleep