The Science of Sleep review by The Grim Ringler

I dont envy Michel Gondry as a filmmaker. I cant really blame him for making a concert film (Block Party) after the success of his film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That was one of those rare films that really hits and captures such beauty that it's hard to top, sometimes ever. I was excited by the prospect of a follow-up though to a film that i utterly adore. So, with visions of another well crafted and smart little movie that I went into Science with. Would he nail two films out of the park?

Stephane has moved from Mexico to France to be with his mother. He has never felt as close to his mother as he has his father but lets his mother talk him into moving to be with her. She lures him with the promise of a job as a graphic designer for a company that makes promotional calendars. His hope is that he'll be able to eventually talk them into producing his own calendar idea which features famous natural disasters throughout history. This turns out to be a lie, he soon finds, and he is in fact to set to do menial pacesetting for the company, something he comes to loathe. Upon arriving at his mother's home he finds that she isn't living there now but is staying with a boyfriend. He also finds that his room is exactly as he left it, which, for a grown man, is strange to return to a room made for a young boy. Stranger still is his encounter with the woman that lives next door, who he meets when he gets pulled into helping her movers with a piano she needs to have taken up the several flights of stairs to her flat. The relationship between Stephane and Stephanie begins with lies he lying by not admitting that he lives next door to her and she allowing her friend to lie about what their work is. Stephane is immediately drawn to his neighbor though and the more he finds out about her the more he comes to love her. He is a dreamer with an inventor's heart and is always making odd gadgets that alter reality, while she is a crafter with the ability to transform any project she works on into art. The problem here is that Stephane is more invested in his dreams than he is in his own life and the more he is forced to deal with in his waking life the more he retreats to his dreams. His dreams are strange, vivid things where he is the host of his own talk show and he spends each show analyzing moments from his past or present, all in an attempt to discern why he is the way he is and where he going. His dreams also veer into sheer fantasy and it's easy to see why he's so drawn to that world. In his dreams Stephane is in power and knows exactly what he should do and what he needs to do to attain the things he wants. In his dreams he is the boss at work, he is popular, he is respected, he is loved, hell, he's nearly a god. In his waking life he is awkward and unsure of himself and questions everything he does. He loves Stephanie yet she tells him she doesn't want a boyfriend, to which he reacts angrily, telling her he won't be her friend any longer. It isn't long until we see Stephane with Stephanie again, his hope that she'll fall for him still there, just beneath the surface but still only a dream. Things take a turn for Stephane when his strange calendar of disasters is picked up by his employer to be produced. The calendar isn't only produced, it's a hit, bringing more success to Stephane than he's ever known, but also complicating things. Just as he is starting to make headway in his life, and when Stephanie seems to finally coming around to him, Stephane retreats again into his dreams, allowing his assumptions and fantasies get the better of him and pushing him further out to sea emotionally, so far out in fact that he may finally be out of reach.

As beautiful as this film is, and as touching and tragic, it's also alienating. Most of the film you can buy into the character of Stephane and his quirks but there comes a point where you just get tired of it all. He ceases being cute and becomes just creepy and troubled. It's hard to get a fix on whether this is intentional or not, but that's the outcome. I tend to think that you're meant to find everything tragic, and it is, but it's not as tragic as it might be were Stephane not so self-damning. But he isn't the only one with this sort of a flaw as Stephanie also does things that just make you want to shake her. Both of them are trapped by their fears and by their distrust, and are so close to coming together but just don't know how to get any closer.

This is a very well made and directed film and the dream sequences really do give things a surreal and charming appeal. Nothing here looks extravagant but things seem more genuine because they are done with stop motion and not CGI. The actors are very good, and some of the exchanged between Stephane and his friend Guy are fantastic. The script is touch and go. There are very good, very insightful moments but then too there are aspects of Stephane that just seem silly. The soundtrack is very good and really works well with the film, which has become a pleasant rarity these days.

It's hard not to admire a film that's made so sincerely and with such skill, but Science just doesn't seem to come together that successfully. I love a lot of what the film says, I like the characters, but things just don't jell right in the end. It's a pity too because this really has some of the same elements that made Eternal Sunshine so special, I just think that the absence of Charlie Kaufman as writer really kept this from reaching its full potential.


6 out of 10 Jackasses
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