The 11th Green

The Sleepy Time Gal

Martha Plimpton and Jacqueline Bisset in The Sleepy Time Gal

Two women search for meaning in lost loves and missed chances. As one mother looks to her past to gain strength to face the future, a daughter investigates the emotional wounds which have kept her from finding love.

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DVD (poor-quality standard-def):  Amazon
VOD:  Remastered Edition Coming Fall 2024 to Criterion Channel

USA 2001, 94 minutes (final released length), C-Hundred Film Corp, Antarctic Pictures, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment

Origination format: 35mm color
Exhibition format: Print (1.85/Dolby SR)
Archival Print Source: Academy Film Archive 

Major festival showings: Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah (2001, competing); Filmfest München (2001, special tribute); Edinburgh International Film Festival (2001); Vancouver International Film Festival (2001); Rencontres internationales de cinéma à Paris (2001, three-film retrospective); MIFF Milano Film Festival (2001); London International Film Festival (2001); Moscow International Film Festival (2002).

“In ‘The Sleepy Time Gal,’ Munch daringly portrays the mysterious crisscrossings of destinies and the seemingly metaphysical echoes of distant lives as matter-of-fact occurrences. Yet he avoids exaggerations, guiding his actors to embody the characters’ actions with a similarly modest but emotionally engaged vigor.”  Richard Brody, The New Yorker (2023 retrospective assessment)
The Sleepy Time Gal exerts a gentle but definite narrative pull, with a style that immerses us so fully in every scene that they seem absolutely flooded with life.”  Caryn James, New York Times

“It’s thanks in no small part to Jacqueline Bisset’s candid and complex performance that for all its gossamer, death-haunted poetics, The Sleepy Time Gal in the end conveys the irreducible weight of a singular life.”  Dennis Lim, Village Voice

“Munch’s screenplay is tenderly observant of his characters. He watches them as they float within the seas of their personalities. His scenes are short and often unexpected. The story unfolds in sidelong glances. His people are all stuck with who they are and speak in thoughtful, well-considered words, as if afraid of being misquoted by destiny.”  Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

As usual, Münch is chasing down something exceedingly delicate. Distances across time are linked to distances in space, and characters are dispersed both emotionally and geographically, but it's all handled softly, without emphatic prodding. The final effect of Sleepy Time Gal is of a lovingly crafted patchwork quilt, sewn by hand, billowing as it falls over the bed. . . . Sleepy Time Gal is about searching, trying to complete one’s self, not as a quest but as a biological urge."  Kent Jones, Film Comment

“I’ve called Munch’s style neat and decorous, but the way this movie — a period piece, like his other two features — leaps about in time and space may initially seem restless and unsettled. It starts off with Frances in New York City in the summer of 1982, moves to Frances in San Francisco six months later, leaps to Rebecca in New York, lurches forward another year to Frances in San Francisco, switches to Rebecca in Boston, then follows her as she boards a plane for Daytona Beach. Yet the persistence of feelings and personalities registers more than the temporal and spatial shifts — becoming a duet between mother and daughter, many miles and lives apart, singing in perfectly staggered harmony.”  Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

The Sleepy Time Gal has a depth, range and subtlety far greater than most American films . . . Bisset’s superb, unsparing portrayal. . . .” Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

[D]elicate, haunting and sultry.  At times, it seems so diaphanous that its about to slip into the ether, made weightless by its own clandestine longings.”  Gene Seymour, New York Newsday

“There’s a wistful poetry and dramatic clarity about Munch’s work that matches the sensitive acting.”  (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune)

“The richest and most distinguished effort to date from a major independent talent, The Sleepy Time Gal may seem ‘European’ in sensibility, but only because there’s so little room for American films of its kind.” (Scott Tobias, The Onion)

“Munch provides wonderful counterpoints to the entwined stories – each bound by variations of pain and reconciliation, doubt and discovery. He moves through time and space with preternatural ease, drawn to setting and location, architecture and landscape. He locates symmetries and reversals, the search for origins against a deeper plea for understanding, the shared characteristics and the similarities of their pursuits.”  Patrick Z. McGavin, Indiewire