We gave it a B-
The Science of Sleep is like a weird dream that tugs at the memory throughout the day with its intriguing, misshapen pieces. That is to say, the movie bears the characteristically whimsical stamp of French filmmaker, video director, and commercials pro Michel Gondry, who is never happier than when absorbed in a project where logic and proportion have fallen softly dead. But in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Gondry had the knife-edge wit of co-writer Charlie Kaufman’s script keeping him sharp, and in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, the director had the brilliant comedian himself. Here, the screenplay is Gondry’s own, and he reveals himself to be an incurable advocate for never-ending childhood. On cranky days, I’d call never-ending childhood a nightmare, but hey, it’s his party.
For sleeper Stéphane (Gael García Bernal, enjoying his playtime as a shy guy), dreams are a liberating contrast to his waking life as a romantically insecure fellow who toils as a graphic designer at a French office on a dysfunctional par with that of The Office. The arrival of Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in the apartment across the hall from his is a nice diversion, and he thinks he’s attracted at first to Stéphanie’s party-loving friend, Zoé (Emma de Caunes), while we know it’s Stéphanie herself who’s his match, right down to their his-and-hers names. But Stéphane is also so manically playful, immature, frightened, fey (let the beholder choose the adjective) that little dreams, little games, and little arts-and-crafts fantasies literally built of cardboard become his refuge. Dream time, it appears, is the filmmaker’s own refuge, and anyone who would enter Gondry’s playhouse ought to be prepared to enjoy wearing a paper party hat.