watch Sleeping Beauty
A haunting portrait of Lucy, a young university student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of unspoken desires.
Julia Leigh’s debut feature caused a sharp intake of breath from audiences on the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and with good reason. Endorsed by Jane Campion, this provocative tale of a university student who becomes involved with a disturbing high-end sexual service is as uncomfortable as it is intoxicating. Unquestionably, while some will be outraged, Leigh’s formal skills behind the camera herald a major Australian filmmaking talent.
The film focuses on Lucy (Emily Browning), literally willing to do anything to make ends meet. Initially, we see her as a human lab-rat, swallowing a long tube with a balloon attached for an unspecified medical test. It’s just the first unanswered question that we get from Leigh, the award-winning novelist behind The Hunter and Disquiet. Neither is it the last time that Lucy sees her body violated.
After earning money as a lingerie-wearing waitress at a kinky dinner party, Lucy is then offered the chance to become a “sleeping beauty”: she takes a drug that causes her to fall into a deep slumber, allowing a paying male client to play with her body – without penetration – in total privacy. With Browning fully nude during these excruciating scenes, you have to admire her bravery in what is also a near-inscrutable reading of the character.
A twisted fairy tale where none of the men prove to be Lucy’s Prince Charming, it’s an increasingly bleak study of warped sexual desire that (sometimes to its detriment) feels as passive as Lucy in its unwillingness to pry. From the sparse dialogue to the rigorously composed framing, this European-style work forces you to fill in the blanks. Some will find it frustrating. Some will see it as an Eyes Wide Shut knock-off. But whatever your feelings, Sleeping Beauty is impossible to feel indifferent towards. watch new movies