Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Sleeping Dictionary (2003) [R] ***

John Truscott (played by Hugh Dancy) is a stiff, conservative young English colonial officer posted in the 1930s to Sarawak, in the lush, emerald tropical forest on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo. Upon his arrival Truscott discovers that he’s been assigned a sleeping dictionary, a beautiful young native girl named Selima (enchantingly played by Jessica Alba), to help him learn the Iban language as well as to be his personal concubine. Finding himself in a moral dilemma (unable to separate sex from romantic love), Truscott cannot take advantage of his good fortune, nor can Selima fulfill her role. This leads to frustration on both sides, and is a source of tension between the two. Slowly the tension is resolved as Truscott unwittingly takes the only path open to him – he falls passionately in love with Selima. Forbidden by the British government, as well as by native custom, to marry a native girl, the besotted, tormented young man recklessly ignites a chain of events that unfolds like a train wreck in slow motion.

The Sleeping Dictionary is an entertaining romantic drama, set against the backdrop of British colonial expansion into Indonesia. Writer/director Guy Jenkin has crafted a plausible story with well-developed characters, a clear story arc featuring unexpected twists and turns, mystery, jealousy, lust and betrayal, and a story that touches on the problems the British faced early in the 20th century in managing their far-flung empire. Jessica Alba and Hugh Dancy are very attractive and have excellent romantic chemistry. There is nudity throughout the film, although Alba, who was just in her early twenties, understandably used a body double for those scenes. If you enjoy going native romantic dramas, films like Avatar or Dances with Wolves, you’ll probably enjoy The Sleeping Dictionary

Labels: drama, romance   
Internet Movie Database   
Tomatometer (critics=NA, viewers=67)

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