The Sleeping Dictionary

Watch The Sleeping Dictionary

"Learn to speak her language."
  • R
  • 2003
  • 1 hr 49 min
  • 6.5  (9,128)

In the movie The Sleeping Dictionary, we are transported to 1930s colonial Malaysia where a young woman named Selima (Jessica Alba) must navigate the complex world of British imperialism and cultural assimilation. Selima, an orphaned girl of mixed ancestry, is taken in by a British couple (played by Brenda Blethyn and Christopher Ling) who offer her a home and education in exchange for her services as a "sleeping dictionary" - a local girl who is trained to teach English to the British colonizers.

Selima is paired with John Truscott (Hugh Dancy), a young British man who has recently been posted to Malaysia to work as a district officer. John is idealistic and eager to make a difference in the lives of the locals, but he finds himself overwhelmed by the language barrier and cultural differences. Selima, however, quickly becomes an indispensable guide and translator for him, and they bond over their shared love of language and learning.

As Selima and John spend more time together, their relationship deepens and they begin to fall in love. However, their romance is complicated by the strict social norms of colonial society and the racism and classism that pervades it. Selima is seen as an outsider by both the British and the Malay communities, and she is caught between two worlds.

Meanwhile, John must navigate the political intrigue and power struggles of the colonial administration, including a corrupt official named Henry (played by Bob Hoskins) who is determined to exploit and oppress the local people. John and Selima's relationship is further complicated by Henry's meddling and by John's own conflicted feelings about his role as a colonial administrator.

The Sleeping Dictionary is a poignant and thought-provoking film that explores themes of identity, language, and cultural imperialism. Jessica Alba delivers a nuanced performance as Selima, capturing the character's intelligence, resilience, and vulnerability. Hugh Dancy is also excellent as John, bringing a boyish charm and earnestness to the role.

Brenda Blethyn and Bob Hoskins provide strong supporting performances, and the film's lush cinematography and evocative score transport the viewer to the exotic and alluring world of 1930s Malaysia. Director Guy Jenkin balances the film's romance and drama with a keen sense of historical context and cultural sensitivity, making The Sleeping Dictionary a compelling and engaging film that is well worth watching.

The Sleeping Dictionary is a 2003 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 49 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.5.

The Sleeping Dictionary
Where to Watch The Sleeping Dictionary
The Sleeping Dictionary is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent The Sleeping Dictionary for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 49 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.5  (9,128)