Film review – The Science of Sleep (2006)

Director Michel Gondry’s collaboration with writer Charlie Kaufman resulted in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a visual tour-de-force and a love story of deep resonance. Now working from his own script Gondry’s latest film, The Science of Sleep, still demonstrates his unique stylistic flair but lacks any real emotional depth.

After the death of his father, frustrated artist and inventor Stéphane Miroux (Gael García Bernal from Babel and Bad Education) moves back to his childhood home in Paris to live with his mother. Stéphane never really grew up and his overactive imagination makes it frequently difficult for him, and the audience, to tell the difference between his dreams and reality. He becomes drawn to his neighbour, the similarly creative Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg from Lemming), and the pair enter into an awkwardly undefined relationship.

The constant intrusion of Stéphane’s dreams gives The Science of Sleep an interesting surrealist edge but as a whole it lacks bite. There are moments of inspired whimsy but Stéphane’s fantasy world of cellophane, papier-mâché and cardboard becomes just a little bit too kitschy. Stéphane’s flawed adolescent behaviour is often more annoying than enduring and there is never any genuine chemistry between him and Stéphanie.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 278, 2007

© Thomas Caldwell, 2007