The Science of Sleep
By Cynthia Fuchs,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Charming and strange, with lovely animated scenes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This is an extremely internal, subjective tale that emphasizes the protagonist's childish desires: He wants to be loved and nurtured, but he behaves selfishly and naively.
Violence & Scariness
Slapsticky and hallucinatory violence, including a piano carried on a stairway that falls onto the protagonist (causing a sprained arm); a bump on the head that produces blood; Stéphane's childlike calendar drawings depict disasters (plane explosion, earthquake); an antic "fight" with oversized hands.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The protagonist works in an office that produces "nudie" calendars (brief glimpse of a couple of photos, some cartoonish, imagined sexual activity involving office workers); he appears in bathtub, then naked as he puts on a robe (his bottom/back is shown briefly); office workers discuss sexual desire; reference to blow job.
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A couple of "f--k"s (in subtitles), plus other mild profanity ("merde," "a--hole") and jokey/disparaging use of "fags."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some cigarette smoking and some social drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this arty French film consists mostly of fanciful/dream-like scenes that can seem nonsensical and lack a clear narrative drive. (In other words, kids won't be clamoring to see it.) There's some slapstick violence (falls and fisticuffs with enlarged hands), and Stéphane draws "disaster" images for the calendar company where he works (which also produces calendars featuring naked women). The movie includes brief shots of Stéphane naked in a bathtub and emerging to don a robe. But his desire for Stéphanie is rendered metaphorically, in dreamy images of heroic feats and horseback riding. Characters smoke cigarettes and drink at a party. Some profanity.
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What's the Story?
Following the loss of his father to cancer, Stéphane (Gael García Bernal) travels from Mexico to Paris, where he intends to sort through his family's old apartment. This rummaging brings back memories of his childhood, memories that Stéphane tends to arrange in his head in his own way (including remembering conversations with his parents on a TV talk show set made of cardboard). Stéphane is perpetually "creative": When his mother, Miou-Miou (Christine Miroux) arranges a job at a company that makes naked-girl calendars, Stéphane arrives with his own designs for a 12-month cycle -- a series of drawings of disasters. Stéphane's own disaster in the making concerns his crush on new neighbor Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who is also artistically inclined. She's repeatedly put off by Stéphane's incoherent action due to his difficulty in differentiating between his dreams and his waking life.
Is It Any Good?
THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP doesn't tell a story so much as it unravels. A journey through a young man's dreams and desires, it's at once lyrical, strange, and resistant to interpretation. While this untraditional structure will frustrate some viewers, it's also enchanting and challenging, a movie that takes a mature, complex perspective on childish behavior and the culture that encourages it.
Written and directed by the ever-inventive Michel Gondry, The Science of Sleep offers up a protagonist who resists conventional identification. But if the character of Stéphane is disquieting, the movie's exploration of his individual psyche is endlessly fascinating. The fact that the story doesn't come together in a pat resolution, but rather opens out into more possibilities -- romantic, scary, and new -- only makes it more adventurous.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the nature of dreams. What do dreams "mean"? Is it possible to interpret them definitively? How do they convey unconscious or submerged desires and fears? Why don't we remember more of our dreams? How does Stéphane "act out" his anxieties in his dreams?
- In theaters: September 22, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: February 6, 2007
- Cast: Alain Chabat, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gael Garcia Bernal
- Director: Michel Gondry
- Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
- Studio: Warner Independent
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: for language, some sexual content and nudity.
- Last updated: April 3, 2023
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