‘Slumberland’ Explained, Ending: Does Nemo Return To The Waking World? What Happens To Philip?

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As we watched “Slumberland,” we could tell that its narrative was utterly confused between being a kids’ movie and a movie for adults. This confusion seems to be a dominant problem in most movies set in the fantasy realm these days, a recent example being “The School for Good and Evil.” But while that at least exhibited some sense of imagination regarding the world of fairytales, “Slumberland” missed the mark. Seriously, guys, you had the entire dreamworld as your canvas, and all you could explore were just four random dreams that were not even that imaginative or visually pleasing. In a world where children and adults alike are watching movies from Marvel and Disney, Slumberland was extremely underwhelming. We mean, whatever we say about “Multiverse of Madness” as a movie, the scene where our protagonist is hurled across multiple timelines really sets a benchmark because of how much it resonated with people’s imagination and the stories they have been exposed to since the beginning of cinema. And the makers of “Slumberland” wasted a massive opportunity where they could have really created something on par with that, if not by visuals, then at least by dialogue. Let us go through the narrative of the movie and see why it feels so unspectacular to us.

Spoilers Ahead


How Did Nemo End Up In Slumberland?

Nemo is an 11-year-old girl who lives with her dad on an island, watching over a lighthouse. That is her entire world, and she is quite happy with it. One night, her dad tells her a bedtime story about how he and his friend Flip had traveled to the sea of nightmares to find magic pearls that would grant the owner any wish they would ask for. But before Peter can complete the story, he has to leave for an urgent task. That night, Nemo has a dream where she sees a giant squid, one that her father had mentioned in his story, and sees his capsized boat. When she wakes up from her nightmare, she is informed by Clara that her father was lost at sea. As per Peter’s last wishes, Nemo must go and live with her uncle Philip in the city. He seems like a nice enough man, although very different from Peter, who was far more adventurous. Nemo misses her dad immensely and is trying hard to deal with her loss. After she goes to sleep on her first night at her uncle’s place, she has a dream where her piggy doll comes alive, and her bed takes her to the lighthouse, where she runs into Flip. We don’t think we are wrong when we say that this movie needed someone who has that wild charm, not just the wild look. For that reason, maybe Jason Mamoa wasn’t the best choice.

Either way, Flip tells her about a map that he is looking for and how he needs it to locate the magic pearls that would grant every wish. Nemo has no idea about the map, but she is intrigued by the idea of the pearls. The next day, in her dream, her pig locates the map for her. That is enough for Nemo to come up with a plan. She sneakily uses Philip’s phone to take a leave for herself and goes to school, where she sleeps on a hammock in a hidden place with all her tools. As she travels back to Slumberland, she shows the map to Flip and tells him that he must take her to the pearls. He is hesitant but is convinced when Nemo uses the double-knock method of the outlaw code.

As the two of them make their way across different dreams, Flip tells her that he and Peter stole the map years ago from BOSA, the Bureau of Subconscious Activities. Since then, Officer Green has been chasing Flip for the map. As the duo makes their way closer to their destination, Nemo’s personal nightmare, the giant squid, chases them. They escape, but at another point, Flip is finally arrested by Officer Green. She was supposed to retire ages ago but wasn’t able to, simply because of Flip. It is due to his arrest that Nemo comes to know that the reason he is seeking the pearls is so that he can remember who he is. He has been in Slumberland for more than 30 years and has forgotten his identity. He wants to remember so that he knows that he is not alone. After Flip is locked up, Officer Green has a talk with Nemo, telling her that her dreams are what she needs, not what she wants. She believes the pearls to be a myth and advises Nemo to start focusing on the real world.

When Nemo wakes up from that dream, she goes out to see her uncle, and both of them watch some home videos from his childhood. Nemo figures out that her uncle Philip is Flip and that part of him was lost in the dream world when her dad chose a different life for himself. With this new information, Nemo once again goes to sleep in the school, and in the dreamworld, she helps Flip escape from prison. When they reach the sea, she tells him the truth about his real identity. Hearing that, Flip decides that he does not want the pearls anymore and is happy to spend his days in Slumberland. Nemo tells him that she can go find them on her own, but Flip tells her that it is too dangerous. When he is trying to talk to her, she is woken up by the schoolteacher, Miss Arya. Her uncle is called, but a solution can’t seem to be reached as both of them refuse to talk about their feelings. Nemo is upset with her uncle, and that night she decides to just go back to the lighthouse. But it is a stormy night, and an accident on the boat knocks her out and sends her back to Slumberland, where she finds herself directly in the sea of nightmares. She dives inside and finds the boat with the pearls. Nemo sends her pig to retrieve one for her, but as soon as she gets it, she finds that her nightmarish squid is back. Just as it is about to nab her, Flip comes with a jet to rescue her. He came to know that she had gone alone and wasted no time in reaching her. As they are escaping, the squid latches onto the jet and crashes it into the dapper dresser’s dream. It’s a whole chase from there on, where the people whose dreams they have been crossing start waking up. 

The salsa dancer is a nun in a choir, the dapper dresser is an office worker taking a nap, the kid driving the truck is, well, a child who has built the model that he is dreaming about, and the guy on the goose is celebrating a win for Canada. Flip had previously mentioned about the salsa dancer that she must be nothing like that in her real life, and it turned out to be true. Humans are complex beings and seldom show their complete selves to the real world. There are often secret parts of them, hidden for whatever reason, that manifest in their dreams. And then there are those like the child and the Canadian who are so passionate about following their dreams that they make them a reality. The child will no doubt make a great engineer, and the Canadian’s greatest hobby is sports. There is also a blip about lost childhoods being part of people’s dreams. Had the significance of dreams to people’s real-life been explored more, it would have made the movie far more engaging. Now, it is just something that is too surface level to hold our interest.

Coming back to the storyline, as Flip and Nemo are a few steps away from the lighthouse, which is the safe space that the squid can’t enter, Nemo starts feeling ill. That is because, in the waking world, she is in a lot of danger as her boat is in danger of capsizing. Philip is on his way with a rescue team when they spot Nemo.


‘Slumberland’ Explained Ending: Does Nemo Return To The Waking World?

In the dream world, Flip is captured by the squid when he tries to retrieve the pearl for her, but he manages to get it for her. Nemo uses her wish to save Flip; she wishes that he would wake up. The moment she asks for that, we see a change in Philip’s demeanor in the waking world. He is no longer the guy who is trying to hold onto the boat for dear life. He is a brave man who jumps into the sea to rescue his niece.

But while Nemo is still unconscious and in Slumberland, she beats the squid by conquering her fear. What she is not scared of cannot be her nightmare anymore. She meets Officer Green once again, who is surprised that the pearls were a reality after all. Also, she tells her to give the pig a squeeze, and another pearl comes tumbling out. She uses that to make her wish and finds her dad waiting at the steps of the lighthouse. She spends her day with him, getting her closure and reminiscing about their time together. Her dad asks her once again what a lighthouse is for, and this time, Nemo has the right answer. She tells him that it is to guide the ships. Her dad tells her that if it were a matter of safety, the ship would never leave the harbor. Life is about adventure, and everything he has taught her is for her to use in the real world. As they bid goodbye to each other, he tells her to keep an eye on his brother, who has wildness in his heart despite his calm demeanor. Nemo wakes up and is more than happy to resume her life with her uncle, who is a different person now. In his words, he is Flip and Philip, or rather “Flilip.” The joke wasn’t funny, but it was certainly sweet. Her uncle is also bold enough to start flirting with Arya, who was very touchy to begin with, but is surprised at the charm that Philip carries now. Reclaiming Flip had brought back Philip’s childhood thirst for adventure and the courage to pursue it. He was the dad Nemo needed, and the two of them settled into their new familial bond very well.


Final Thoughts: What Works for the Movie?

We believe that “Slumberland” received a treatment that was very dated. This would have worked so well in 2012, but right now, it just feels like a waste of our time. Flip’s role needed a lot more charm than it was given. We don’t blame the actor, but the writer, who couldn’t flesh out the character better. Also, it felt slightly odd to us that Nemo’s first brush with “Slumberland” was after her tragedy. Showing her dreams before could have very beautifully added to the story. The dialogues were not as smart as they could have been. Of course, the cinematography was beautiful, but even that wasn’t given much scope because of the limited storytelling. Maybe a Jason Momoa fan would enjoy this movie more, but for us, this is a serious pass.


“Slumberland” is a 2022 Drama Fantasy film directed by Francis Lawrence.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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