Add a Review

  • Liked this film a lot. A rework of the classic Romeo and Juliet impossible-love scenario, it managed to stand out from the crowd, not least because of the impressive cinematography (helped in no small part by the wonderful locales and the beautiful tribes people (The Iban). While never being earth-shattering, for a film to watch with a loved one (without being too girly) this is hard to top IMO. It shows the moral struggle of a man who has to choose between 'duty' and love. The arrogance and conditioning of British colonialism is dealt with well, as we struggled to impose our European values and God on peoples in far flung corners, and indeed it shows the irony that we struggled to retain it ourselves as the beauty of the place and people intoxicated our men (a few cads apart)

    Watch it with wifey/girlfriend/prospective mate
  • In 1936, the expatriated young and naive just-graduated British John Truscott (Hugh Dancy) arrives to the Sarawak, a British colony, to work in the Iban society. The beautiful Selima (Jessica Alba) is assigned to be his "sleeping dictionary", to live and sleep with him and teach him the language and habits of the locals. The reluctant John and Selima fall in love for each other in a forbidden romance.

    What a magnificent surprise "The Sleeping Dictionary" was for me, indeed a wonderful romance, with action and drama and an adorable story of difference of cultures, seduction and secrets. Jessica Alba and Hugh Dancy have stunning performances, showing a delightful chemistry. Brenda Blethyn and Bob Hoskins are excellent, as usual, and Noah Taylor, as the nasty Neville, Emily Mortimer, as the sweet Cecil and Eugene Salleh, as Belansai, are also fantastic. Certainly, Jessica Alba is better and better than Webster's and American Heritage Dictionaries. Definitely, "The Sleeping Dictionary" is a must-see movie for any sensitive audience. My vote is ten.

    Title (Brazil): "Dicionário de Cama" ("Dictionary of Bed")
  • The Sleeping Dictionary should be noted mostly for being the biggest missed opportunity of shooting star Jessica Alba. This film was her only film project between the first and second seasons of "Dark Angel,' the show that turned her into a sensation, but quickly died a network death at the end of season 2, and thus ending the heat index on the lovely Miss Alba. The tragedy is this film, a good showcase of her and her abilities (rather than just her), was inexplicably delayed, pushed off and kept from theater screens, only to be released direct-to video far too long after her star dimmed.

    As with any product here, you can get the synopsis elsewhere, so don't look for it here. I'll try not to spoil anything, but take note if you read this, then watch the movie, you may get tipped off as to what I'm vaguely referencing. If that bothers you, come back after you watch!

    This is a film that had a good idea, and good execution of what the idea turned into. Unfortunately, a little bit more planning would have helped. At 109 minutes, this film won't bore you, but it could have been rightfully intriguing with 20-30 minutes of good plot added.

    The film is carried on the sound filmmaking and charm of it's actors. In particular, Alba is enchanting. She plays the part with the seriousness it was intended, and never lets her intentionally accented English fall into 'stupid foreigner' stereotype, a tough job for many young actors and actresses who have attempted the same. Her partner, Hugh Dancy, is good enough. He channels a little bit like a scrawny Heath Ledger, but never quite gets rugged enough.

    The other joy of the cast is the ever-underrated Bob Hoskins. By coincidence, I saw 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' just hours before watching 'Sleeping Dictionary,' and am never let down by his appearances in films. He plays a character who isn't written subtly enough; still, he acts it. The endless looks of "Damn bloody fool. Good for him, the w***er" scattered through the film isn't enough for a man of his caliber, but we'll take what we can get.

    Their performances are weaved together well by Writer/Director Guy Jenkin, who is making his big screen debut as a director, though his writing career goes back to the late '70's without much acclaim. Directing-wise, he knows what he is doing. The camera work is graceful and beautiful, and he compliments the fantastic elements of the story well. As a writer, well, there are things left to be desired.

    Most of all, this film seems too short. The story is predictable, but it never drags. The love scenes are contrived, as is the underdeveloped climax, but that's not where the film is weak. The characters are cleverly set up to be mirrors, and the overlapping triangles are so complex they rival those brainteasers that ask 'how many triangles are in this picture?' The problem is, the most important one is never realized, because of the lack of development between Dancy and his best friend within the tribe. Without much difficulty, and a little more time, that relationship alone would have lifted this film from not quite enough to a good, if not better, movie.

    As a result, you're left with a film that doesn't challenge anything because it just challenges the same old things. But it is romantic, and has much more spark than many other movies you may see of this type. For that, and a young actress who has way too much fire to just disappear at this point of her career, this film is worth seeing.
  • sioned-430 July 2006
    This was an excellent film and brought back a lot of memories of my time with the Iban people in Sarawak. The costumes, the people, the scenery...these would all be worth watching the movie even without a good plot. There are some priceless moments in it including a conversation with the cook about drunkenness and wages and the relationship between the young Englishman and the Iban people he is supposed to be governing. The Iban have a well developed sense of humor. Overall the plot is enjoyable. I'm not a fan of romances, but this was well done and gave a unique glimpse into a people who are still very much the same to this day (minus the actual head hunting).

    If you have ever dreamed of an adventure in Borneo, watch this will convince you of the beauty and the need to go.
  • My wife and I watched this film not knowing anything about it except a two sentence introduction on a movie-card. We were impressed by all aspects of it-particularly the substance of the script-it was a brave script-a script that should have made people uncomfortable because of the swipes taken at British colonialism and what that evil did on a personal level to everybody concerned. Living as I do in Western Australia, the dark legacy of European colonialism is just below the surface and I have seen firsthand the outlines of the story presented in "The Sleeping Dictionary"-not of course the same geography or the same details but once colonialism left its tread on the floor of world history it matters little the particulars.

    The enormity of the personal tragedy of that period is something not to be derisively dismissed as one commentator remarked-as a film fit for screening at the old folks home on a Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the world is still dealing with that evil period of recent history.

    I was moved by all the decisions that the characters faced throughout the film. Brenda Blethyn's character as the wife of Hoskin's colonial official was as much a victim as anybody in the film. Although she emerges as the "baddie" she must try, with little background, to stitch together a semblance of what she feels is an acceptable canvas in order to paint her English life-such of it as there is in Sarawak. And what of Hoskin's torn character-a man who can only fall back on "duty" to country in order to find reason for the completion of duties that he recognizes as damaging to all involved.

    A brave film-look for it!
  • While overseas, I had heard the concept of the movie and the fact the appealing Jessica Alba was featured but had little chance to check on the actual film. When I returned to the USA late last year, I found the film had gone directly to video with limited availability (couldn't get it at Blockbuster, for instance). I am glad that I wound up buying a copy (although I found a 'used' DVD for half the new asking price).

    It is a shame the film never appeared in theaters as the visuals of Sarawak would have been great on the large screen and the audio and music are well done and would have benefited from a theatrical environment.


    While overall the plot line was reasonable and avoided cliche, there were a number of disconnects as far as I was concerned.

    Truscott's dilemma with Bullard after the miners' slaughter arrives too abruptly and presumes some sort of offscreen confession. Since it is a central conflict in the drama, it really deserves more explanation.

    Similarly, the "one year later" leap to Truscott's marrying Cecil Bullard lacked sincerity. Why would Truscutt marry the daughter of those who wedged him away from his true love? While one can imagine various possibilities, the lack of on screen justification left me unfulfilled.

    Finally, even after conversion by Sarawak and its people, Truscutt is still too much of a proper Englishman to credibly leave a pregnant wife. Some of the sympathy I'd built up for the forbidden lovers was undercut by the way this was handled. It would have been far better for Cecil to push a reluctant Truscutt away.

    Still, these plot issues are relatively small in comparison to a film, cast and cinematography that rose well above the small budget and unheralded distribution. I rarely buy videos or DVDs because I find I seldom go back to play them, but this one I will enjoy owning.
  • Although THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY is not that well known and never had a theatrical release, it is by far one of the best movies of 2002. My sister had to pursuade me to first rent, then watch this movie because the idea of a British colonial officer who falls in love with what is known as a Sleeping Dictionary...that is a native woman who sleeps with a man while teaching him the native language. Jessica Alba, who is most well known for her stint on "DARK ANGEL", deftly portrays Selima, the native sleeping dictionary for John Truscott. Hugh Dancy, who portrays John Truscott, is a young british actor who is on his way up. Dancy and Alba have chemistry, and you can hardly take your eyes off of them. The supporting cast is also excellent. Brenda Blethyn, Bob Hoskins, Emily Mortimer, Noah Taylor, Junix Inocian, and Eugene Salleh each portray their parts perfectly and add a unique flavor to the movie.

    On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being lowest, 10 highest), I rate THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY a 10.
  • tprofumo22 February 2003
    The puzzle is, why did this film go directly to video and why isn't it a better film?

    Fineline apparently relegated this to the video bins because of a crowded release schedule, but more likely because it had just one American star in it, Jessica Alba, and her TV series, "Dark Angel," had been canceled, meaning she no longer brought any "heat" to the project.

    That's a shame, because this film is light years better than most direct to video releases.

    While the plot is quite complicated, it is basically about a young Englishman, played by Hugh Dancey, who goes out to Sawawak (Borneo) in the mid-thirties to follow in his father's footsteps and bring the benefits of a good English education to the natives and headhunters of the region.

    He needs to pick up the language, though, and thus is assigned a "sleeping dictionary" a fetching young local woman who will teach him the native lingo, while giving him an education in bed at the same time. While that may sound as contrived a plot as you could find, it is probably grounded in fact, and certainly grounded in solid, British upper class hypocrisy of that day, which, taking into account the fact that he'll be there for three years, sees no reason why he can't avail himself of the local talent to satisfy his sexual needs. In fact, when he initially rejects the beautiful Jessica Alba, they offer him a young man, he being the product of British boys schools and all that.

    After a very brief period of conflict, Dancey and Alba fall head over heels for each other, decide they want to marry, and find themselves in hot water from that point on. The film goes on to rightfully bash British upper class racial prejudice, but never quite deals with the key issue facing Dancey's character. Does he ever catch on that the education he wanted to bring to the natives is the same education that says, one Englishman is worth a thousand natives?

    Anyway, the film, written and directed by Guy Jenkin, is fairly well scripted, well directed and absolutely beautifully shot. Word is, it cost just $15 million, but it has the look of a much more expensive picture, definitely not some cut rate direct to video thriller. This is not some prison women in cages film shot in the Philippines.

    There are some good characterizations here. Bob Hoskins starts out very strong as the cynical governor of this province, but then is very under utilized. Brenda Blethyn is fantasic as Hoskins wife, a manipulative upper class snob who is the real villain of the story.

    But there are script problems here. Dancey and Alba fall in love far too quickly, skipping over a lot of character build up which would have made us care for them a lot more than we wind up doing. There is sympathy for them, though, because of the obvious class and racial biases in the British empire. But you get the feeling there are a lot of missed opportunities here.

    Perhaps the biggest flaw the film has are its two stars, though. Dancey,pretty much unknown in America, seems only adequate to me. He brings no real passion to the role of the young idealist.

    The real enigma, of course, is Jessica Alba. Although as beautiful as any young actress in Hollywood today, she has yet to prove that she can actually act, and with every successive missed opportunity, she is building up a body of work that says maybe she can't. Her first feature staring role was in a flic called "Paranoid," in which she was frankly just plain dreadful. She has had supporting roles in a couple of other films, but the pictures were so dreadful you couldn't hang much of the blame on her, except maybe in her choice of roles. Her big break came in the James Cameron produced TV series "Dark Angel," which got its wings clipped after two seasons. In it, Abla was forced to play a rather depressing character in a depressing show and she could not get deep enough into it to make it the kind of hit that Jennifer Garner became in "Alias."

    In Sleeping Dictionary, Alba definitely looks like someone any man would want to sleep with, but other than that seems in many ways miscast completely. I read one review here that mistakenly places this movie in South America. I wonder if the producers made the same mistake. The days when any dark skinned actress can play any dark skinned character, from Latino to Asian to Arabic, appear to be over to me. Alba didn't seem like a resident of Borneo. She in many ways seemed like a wise ass girl from East Los Angeles.

    Then there's the main problem, her delivery of lines. Alba is excellent when she keeps her mouth shut. No, really, she does reaction shots extremely well. Her emotions play out beautifully on her face. It's when she has to talk that she often finds herself in trouble. In this film, much of her delivery of her lines was just short of bad.

    More importantly, it wasn't good and that makes this film another big missed chance for Jessica Alba. It's too bad, because she was in part hampered by an under developed character, which may have been hampered by a restricted budget. Ten more minutes showing us who the main characters really were might have made all the difference in this film. But Alba still would have had to be good enough to handle the added material and I still don't know if she is.

    She supposedly has another film in the works in which she plays some kind of hiphop dancer. Hopefully, at least playing the right race, she'll shine. But she just misses the mark for me in "Sleeping Dictionary" as she has missed it in everything she's done since "Flipper."
  • Warning: Spoilers

    First of all, I really liked the general concept of this film. The idea of a young Englishmen falling in love with a native girl from a British colony surely isn't that original, but it hasn't been overused either.

    Furthermore I hoped to get a glimpse of the life in British colonies at that time (especially the social interacting between the British colonial rulers and the native people) and, of course, Jessica Alba.

    Well, for those primarily interested in the latter one: Yes, her character has nude scenes, but no, they obviously aren't performed by Jessica Alba. Speaking of that: In my opinion the body double did not even fit Jessica's "size"; they could have done a lot better at this point.

    As I stated initially, I really liked this films premise, but the execution comes close to the worst you could have made out of it.

    First of all: The movie is fractioned. While this doesn't has to be necessarily bad, each fraction gets it's own little climax, whilst there's nowhere a main climax on sight. Even that could work, if those little climax' would do their job, unfortunately they don't. That's mainly because the film doesn't spend the time to develop them, instead it rushes to get a climax done in order to start another one.

    For example: John's "I don't want to have sex unmarried"-dance at the very beginning (lasted maybe 5 minutes and was resolved by pure horniness), their trip to the dying jungle people ("oh look, it's because of the poison, let's tell them and go home"), the matter of John's first departure from Sarawak, his relation to his wife, the attempted murder and death trial afterwards, Henry's relation to Selima, (and so on, and so on). Everything seemed flat, rushed and undeveloped.

    For no obvious they made a plot-driven film out of a people-story. That can't work out. The ending concludes this greatly, you virtually could hear the director's thoughts: "Oh, well, we've 2 minutes and some budget left. Let's bring in the bad guy with a gun".

    On the pro-side the native/Englishmen relations are done quiet nicely, and not every character is stereotypical; I especially enjoyed the role of Cecil for that matter. The cinematography could've been worse but never reached the potential it doubtlessly had. I'd rank Simon Boswell's score slightly but definitely above average. Speaking of Jessica Alba's performance, well: Her role consists mainly of walking around and looking pretty, she did that without getting injured and if you've seen her in "Idle Hands", that's worth something.

    At the end I saw a movie whose creators couldn't fill the (very solid) plot with life. That's particularly sad, since I'd could've been a great film.
  • It seems to me that anyone who saw the film and said that Jessica Alba didn't look like a native, hasn't been paying a lot of attention to the film (probably they only had eyes for the lovely Jessica). Because in the film it's explained that her father is English, therefore she doesn't have to look like a native. It surprises me that nobody seems to remember this important fact, and I have serious questions about the IQ of those people. For me this movie was near perfect, except there could be a bit more character development. Jessica Alba was gorgeous and very believable. To me she was the best actor/actress in the movie. But she can still improve. It's good that she works on her acting in these smaller projects, so that in a few years time she'll be ready for the bigger work, and make her big breakthrough. I give the movie a solid 7 (out of 10).
  • This movie was breathtaking to me. I figured it went straight to video since I never saw any previews for it. Jessica Alba is a favorite of mine anyway, so I have a bias I suppose. The movie was beautifully shot and the music was in great taste. I had never heard of sleeping dictionaries, so it was an interesting lesson. At first, Jessica didn't seem to fit the look of the other natives, but it made sense when she was mixed and I could see where her complexion played in. Her accent was surprisingly believable. Hugh was adorable as the sheepish "leader" of the community. It made all the sense in the world that they would fall for each other. I liked the angle of the British hypocrisy. It was alright to sleep with the people the ruled or "civilized", but not good enough to marry them or acknowledge the children they had with these people. It resonated with me because the same thing happened with slavery in America. I thought that angle was well played out. I do agree with some other users that they fell in love too quickly and they weren't together enough for the audience to see that dynamic. They spent far too much of the movie apart for it to be so dramatic and "love at all costs" type of love. It was weird that he left his wife who was pregnant for Selima, but I guess Cecil knew he wouldn't be happy with their little "family". I identified with her struggle to please her husband and hold onto him. Imagine that many wives of the colonialism era probably felt that way when their husbands desired not just another woman, but a woman they felt was inferior. It was a great movie. Watch it.
  • jwdibble22 February 2003
    'The Sleeping Dictionary' directed by Guy Jenkin just came to a Video store in my neighborhood (February 2003). It is one of the best movies I have seen...I rate it in the top 10 on my list of Romance/Drama. This film has terrific director- ship, meaning that the plot moves smoothly, is highly coherent, and suspenseful with timely revelations. The acting is first like who you are supposed to and don't. I enjoyed seeing a film with real settings...jungle scenes & environs. I look forward to seeing future Guy Jenkins films. Even the music is excellent: it is fully supportive but one doesn't notice it. This is about the best compliment I can give to a music score for a movie in the Romance/Drama category. (too many movies have distracting music or volume with effect that fogs the plot impact). There is some violence, upper nudity, harsh language and death issues so restrict your young viewers as per choice. 'The Sleeping Dictionary' is a video I will purchase. Very few directors achieve this level of perfection so I put this film in the Artistic Category, not simply Entertainment. Give Director Mr. Jenkins top awards, Members. Thank you, JW.
  • I just recently watched this movie on IFC. And was pleasantly surprise when i first started watching it. But as it progressed, it just boggles me at the execution of it.

    Firstly, commendable performance from Jessica Alba. I am from Singapore, and the setting is close to my heart. For an American, she has definitely convinced me that she was local. Her accent is shaky, but then again, what's the right accent? But i think she played the role well. The other actors however, feels pretty flat. No ups no downs.

    Secondly, for the genre and the setting, this movie can be so much more. The script is very flat, the highs are not high enough, and the lows are not gripping enough. I do not feel for the characters, and I do not care for what this young British is going through.

    Thirdly, I couldn't tell that this takes place in the Malayan archipelago until I was told so in the movie. It just seems so contrive, for the lack of a better word. I should be angry, I should feel sad, I should feel that this is the most unfair world to live in. Yet... All i could see is, Jessica Alba doing a great job.

    I wish someone would re-write this screenplay, and add to this story, take away the crap that is completely unnecessary and make this as magical as it potentially could be.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I admit that many romance-themed movies usually get to me. I saw "City Of Angels" back in 1998 and wept my head off at the corny ending at the end of that movie (unfortunately).

    Since then I've found myself watching less romanced themed comedies or dramas and stuck with straight drama or action. As I surfed through the TV channels on a lazy night, I passed through the Sundance Channel (or IFC, one of those two) and saw Ms. Jessica Alba steaming it up with this blonde guy. I checked on the info to see what the movie was and it was "The Sleeping Dictionary".

    Surprised as I was to see actual nudity (which wasn't hers as I quickly found out), it stuck on my mind. But it wasn't until just a month ago when I saw Ms. Jessica Alba in "Sin City" that I decided to give her other flicks a viewing. One of them flicks being this one.

    This is an okay movie. Not much plot is revealed throughout the course of the movie so it's unclear what exactly the movie is trying to say. My summary of the plot? A young Brit goes to teach a bunch of savages the ways of the Western World and falls head over heels for the accent-broken, way-too-hot-to-be-true Jessica Alba on the way. It doesn't get much complicated from there, but it doesn't get any better either.

    As great as Jessica looks, its her accent that kinda gets the best of me. Her East L.A. accent becomes "Asian" and she ALMOST pulls it off. Bob Hoskins and Brenda Blethyn are riots to watch! It's so good to see them on screen after having to watch mediocre scenes previous. Hugh Dancy (the main character and Freddie Prinze look-a-like) does the meek and fish-out-of-water act for almost the entire film and it STILL bothers me that this guy was able to score with Jessica.

    It's great to see all the physical work from "Dark Angel" pay off in this movie. Whenever Jessica is in almost practically nothing, you can see those muscles on that body just ready to kick your ass. Okay enough about Jessica, lets discuss this film.

    This movie tries to pull off the "forbidden by tradition" boundaries and kinda doesn't succeed. First of all, was it EVER a tradition for the native women to sleep with the foreigners just to teach them the language? That's the main plot that baffles me. The plot goes off into other directions (like the mining subplot) and it just kills the mood of the film. I wish I could explain more but it would only spoil it.

    The only reason to see this film was to see Jessica's sex scenes. As steamy as they are, it's only shown in the middle of the film and that's it! The "forbidden by traditions" subplot kicks in and the film's plot goes haywire from there. Everything to the abusive bad guy to the "who's-baby-is-it-really?" subplot, it's just hard to describe what the plot really is.

    BUT...that doesn't stop the film from being enjoyable in a way. I urge you to rent this film and watch it with a lady-friend. You may not like it, but it's a definite guarantee that she will. All in all, I only recommend watching this flick ONLY if you are a Jessica Alba fan OR if you want to romance your loved one with a typical romance film, this movie is great both ways.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed this film, not least because the look, feel and general atmosphere of up-river Sarawak was captured so successfully. OK, there are nits to pick. First and most important of these: Sarawak never was a British colony until after WWII, when it was ceded to Britain by the last of the White Rajahs. Bob Hoskin's character would have been accountable not to White Hall, but to Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke in Kuching. Secondly, the film's take on Iban and Malay pronunciation left a lot to be desired, surprising since there must have been dozens of native speakers on location to forestall some of the more toe-curling clangers. But these are minor wrinkles. To me the experience was just as pleasant the second time around, always a sure sign a story is being competently told. And let's face it, most of the young Anglo target audience give less than two hoots about history or 'furrin' languages anyway.
  • I just saw a terrible film called The Sleeping Dictionary. One reviewer on Four Word Film Review ( got it right right when he wrote, "From A to Zzzzzzzzz." The story is about an English colonialist jerk that comes to Malaysia to "civilize the savages" so to speak and ends up falling in love with his sleeping dictionary. A sleeping dictionary is a native Malaysian prostitute fluent in English that services Englishmen colonialists and teaches them her native language in return for ... well the movie never really makes that clear, but I can only assume he gives her money or something. Needless to say, the movie focuses a lot more on the "sleeping" part than on the "dictionary" part of the job description. Things get complicated for our young hero when the forbidden love affair gets compounded by her culture, his soap opera domestic situation, and his own boundless stupidity in every major decision he makes throughout the film.

    So yes, the movie has some major flaws, but on the other hand, it delivered exactly the two things I rented it for in the first place: a beautifully photographed exotic location, and an even more beautifully photographed and exotic woman that plays the sleeping dictionary, Jessica Alba. My friend told me that this crappy movie was her at her most beautiful and damn was he right. She's not a great actress, and doesn't quite pass for Malaysian, and its pretty obvious that they use a body double for the nudity, but who cares? Jessica Alba has that rare face and figure that's more than just sexy, but also beautiful in the way that a Vivaldi violin concerto or a Rembrandt painting is.

    (P.S. Sorry to all you feminists out there who discourage objectifying women, the "male gaze," etc. etc., but I hope you can understand that I mean no disrespect.)
  • No, you don't get to see Jessica Alba's breasts in this film. As far as I know, she has not done a nude scene. There are extremely lovely breasts to look at, but they belong to someone else. Yes, that a huge rip-off, but, what the hell, Emily Mortimer makes up for it somewhat by showing hers, and they are something to see.

    That out of the way, this was a beautiful film, cinematographically speaking, and it had some fine performances, the two mentioned being among them. Alba was a native girl that fell in love with an English Officer, Hugh Darcy, and he fell in love with her. This being Colonial English territory, this just won't do. Bob Hoskins, in another great performance, puts the kibosh on the deal, certainly at the urging of his wife, played by Brenda Blethyn, another great performance. Darcy is forced to marry their daughter (Mortimer) or face prison for allowing a native group to kill Dutch miners that were killing natives.

    There is nothing different in the film than what we see every day on the news. Nothing has changed. We have no problem killing thousands of Iraqis to get oil, as the Dutch had no problem killing natives for silver, or the British for whatever they were taking out of Malaysia. Of course, those Iraqis that help us are not good enough to bring to the United States, just as the natives are good for nothing more than bed-mates to teach the language. If there is a god, one hopes that we will all be called to account one day for this madness.

    The one thing that is great about this movie, aside from the great performances of the characters, is the fact that the ending does come out right.
  • The Sleeping Dictionary is a film that when I first heard about it, I thought it would be just another dumb melo-romantic-drama. But I was wrong. This film has great feeling, great sexuality (fans of Jessica Alba and Dark Angel will be immensly pleased), and good craftwork. It is a very good movie.

    The plot involves a young Englishman (Hugh Dancey) who comes to a South American place to civilize the area. But then he meets a young woman called the sleeping dictionary (Alba, in a great role), and of course the love comes around. Conventional story takes many turns and avoids many cliches that in another film would be taken. Sweeping photography and excellent performances propell this film to must-seeness. A-
  • I didn't think they made movies like this anymore. I was on my own, recovering from flu, CH turned up, fire on, snuggled under a goose-down duvet on the couch and I clicked on my hard drive and played this one, saved off Taquilla. I liked it a lot. The photography, helped by the location, was superb. Nobody got punished in the film for being politically incorrect. It was as far removed from one of those English, "filmed in the North wherever everyone must suffer" movies as you can get. OK, Bob Hoskins isn't the greatest actor in the world, nor is Hugh Dancy. But Jessica Alba makes up for both of them. It does not matter that they were not her tits. They were nice tits. It does not matter that Jessica is not Indonesian. She is delicious. If Indonesia can come up with someone more delicious, let her appear in future movies of this type. At least Jessica looked more convincing than Ava Gardner in a 'cross-ethnic' role. Or was it Jennifer Jones? Anyway, Indonesia doesn't offer anything better at this moment in time, as they say. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong in this movie. The new bright eyed and bushy tailed new English would-be colonial future governor refuses to sleep with native language tutor, Jessica Alba, even when she says she has been allocated to sleep with him. OK, religious beliefs can be strong, but could any religious belief be THAT strong? Eventually, the resident English tribe in this part of 1938 Sarawak ship over a suitable English virgin for the young rookie to marry. Alas, by then he has cast off his religious convictions and started shagging Jessica. But he still marries the virgin English rose and is shipped back to England for a year to get over his local passions. On his return, both the women he has slept with are either pregnant or bringing up his baby with the help of another man. How does it all shake out? Well to find that out, you'll have to watch it. 9 out of 10. A mark is lost because as we all know, they weren't Jessica tits. I bet she has inverted nipples.
  • Utterly unbelievable that colonial Brits and natives of Sarawak in the first third of the last century had perfect teeth, perfect complexions (in spite of mixed ancestry), and that women groomed themselves with shaved legs and shaved arm pits! What a typically absurd Hollywood distortion of reality! It was like watching the old black & white `historicals' from the 30's or 40's with all the stars having their then current hair-dos and facial hair (e.g., pencil thin mustaches on the men, etc.) none of which had any historical accuracy whatsoever and look totally absurd in retrospect. It was silly.

    This is an expensive `passion pit' movie designed to get the teeny boys and girls hot 'n bothered on their night out. A totally vapid and worthless romance. A shame to the genre.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I LOVE this movie! This movie took me on a roller-coaster of emotions. It made me laugh and cry, I really had a good cathartic cry towards the end. Jessica Alba is AMAZING as Selima, she really shines! I found myself thinking about the characters long after the movie was over. There should be a sequel because the end leaves some unanswered questions lingering on my mind. This movie is a perfect romantic date movie, just cuddle up on the loveseat with a big bowl of buttery popcorn & an ice cold drink...suspend your disbelief for the time being ('cause it's only a movie, not the History Channel)...and travel back in time to "when England ruled the world." I really like the lush and exotic scenery/background; it really takes me away to a faraway jungle/tropical paradise. The movie brings up several issues, I'm not going to discuss them all, just a few. It makes one question exactly what defines "savages," "indigenous peoples," "primitive locals." You can observe the well-to-do, proper Englishmen/Englishwomen and compare their behavior to the "uncivilized natives" and see who behaves as a savage and who behaves as a member of the human race. How do we define what is or is not taboo? This movie really touches my heart...similar to Frances Hodgson Burnett's "A Little Princess" & "The Secret Garden," Alex Haley's "Queen," and "Anna & the King."


    Another issue I truly enjoy masticating on is the issue of Selima and her (relationship with held) Cecilia. Cecilia was sent away to boarding school at the tender age of 5 years old. Her mother, Aggie never came to see her, not even on Christmas (Scroogey, isn't it?). Aggie was too concerned about her husband, Henry, and his love affair with his "sleeping dictionary" to worry about her own daughter. Cecilia did not have the time she felt cheated of to spend with her parents. Cecilia grew up to be quite an independent woman because of this. Selima on the other hand was right there in the same little village as Henry, who lived in a great big home upstream (uphill - reminiscent of Alex Haley's "Queen" and the big plantation house that Queen's biological father lived on). Even though she lived so close to him she was just as far away as Cecilia was in boarding school back in England. Selima's father told her mother, his sleeping dictionary, to tell little 4 year old Selima that he had gone back to England. She always remembered her dear old dad...eventually she figured out on her own.. (Luke Skywalker...Darth Vader..."I AM your father...") OOOh..Aggie is a character I love to despise. She is truly a savage beneath her vapid visage. In the end Cecilia did what her mother could not do...let go. Sometimes you just have to L.I.G. it (let it go), like Ice Cube said on Next Friday. When you really love someone you can let them go. Unrequited love is no love at all and it is sometimes better to be alone than to be with someone who is in love with someone else. I do believe that Cecilia will be a better mother to her child than Aggie ever was towards Cecilia. Cecilia seems more focused on what truly should be her priorities than Aggie. So what if John runs off with the "head-huntress," she has her baby to live for. She deserves to have the same love and passion as Selima & John have for one another.
  • kneiss11 December 2010
    This is a nice to watch, entertaining love-movie. It's not always convincing, and not always perfect. But Bob Hoskins performance, and Jessica Albas beauty definitely made this movie worth to watch. (Even though, Jessica Alba couldn't fully convince me with a bad played accent and odd pronunciations.) The nice landscapes and pictures also added towards the enjoyment you can get out of the film.

    Don't expect anything extraordinary though. The story is nothing new, just the usual Hollywood love story with a love against tradition theme. It's a bit cheesy, but less cheesy than most other Hollywood-love movies. If you have been looking for that anyway, this movie is for you.
  • workcheck10113 September 2005
    I love movies. However, It had been quite a long time I had not seen a movie that captured my imagination,and attention. This movie is a viewers dream so many twist and turns, I felt like I was a member of the cast....

    I was for over an hour taken to Sarawak and became mentally and emotionally involved in all the problems the main actors faced..

    I rooted for my causes, I shed tears when it was joy, I felt maybe I missed out on my true calling a movie critic .

    As a person who has lived in another culture I could understand the difficulties faced in learning a new language and culture..

    This movie re-confirmed by belief in love, even if fictional
  • While this romantic drama lends itself to more than a few plot holes, it is a lovely romance with sensual scenery and emotional character interpretations. The setting is Sarawak, 1936, and the story revolves around just a few characters focused on the relationship growing between Salima (Jessica Alba) and Truscott (Hugh Dancy).

    Alba is beautifully subtle in her expression of the tribal interpreter falling in love with the young Brit she's only meant to bed and school. Dancy works out the complex attitudes of the period piece in his intimate acceptance of the colliding cultures. Besides the stars, the supporting cast give great performances that color the setting in time, energy, as well as character. Written so that the lovers' individual cultures are more the 'villian' than any one man, Noah Taylor turns in a noteworthy performance as the Brit without sympathy. While not a text book presentation, it's a lovely film with genuine and romantic portrayals. 81/100 (B)
  • ursirius22 July 2003
    What a lovely surprise that was. As I liked Jessica Alba in Dark Angel, I thought a look at the movie won't go amiss. Even my hubby joined after 30 seconds of the opening. Highly recommend it to any and everybody.
An error has occured. Please try again.