After the playfully love-it-or-hate-it nature of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry returns… with another playfully love-it-or-hate-it film. The Science of Sleep is virtually plotless but tells the tale of Stephane Miroux (Gael Garcia Bernal) who, following the death of his father, comes to Paris to get closer to his mother Christine (Miou-Miou). Stephane takes a job in a calendar factory alongside a handful of eccentric characters and slowly falls for his neighbour Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), despite the distractions of her friend.
Unless, of course, it’s all a dream. As Stephane struggles with his life, he retracts into a dream world, the result being that the audience can rarely be certain that what they’re seeing is ‘real’ or ‘imagined’. This lack of certainty is the sort of theme that tends to divide audiences. Throw in Gondry’s visual sense – stop-motion animation, bizarre effects – and you’ve got a dreamlike movie that will either get under your skin and stimulate several senses or, frankly, leave you irate.
But this is a review, not a time to sit on the fence, so I say… it’s a work of genius. A beautiful, imaginative, silly, fantastical and charmingly whimsical work of genius. Bernal – an actor who deserves every plaudit going for his script choices – packs a lot of appeal (outside the obvious aesthetics), carries this film effortlessly and the chemistry between him and Gainsbourg is a delight to watch. The script sparkles with quotable lines and while the whole frequently threatens to become clever-clever rather than just clever, it never does. An audacious film that has considerable heart even as it targets the mind.