Film Review of ‘BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP’


Release date: 16th October 2014

Director: Rowan Joffe

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong

Classification: MA15+ (Strong Themes and Violence)

Review by Peter Gray

Amnesia can be such a dramatic tool for a writer to play with, the idea of an ailing mind is enough to rise fear out of an audience, but in the hands of a filmmaker it can be the trickiest of subjects to successfully convey. A feature like Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ is the shining example of when it was done right but, to say the least, ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ is no ‘Memento’, and writer/director Rowan Joffe certainly doesn’t hold a candle to a talent like Nolan. Based on the best-selling novel from S.J. Watson, this dreary thriller banks on its intriguing premise of amnesiac Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) awaking every day unaware that 15 years of her life have “disappeared”.

Fear and confusion are expressed through Kidman’s blue eyes as her Christine wakes in an unfamiliar bed with an unknown man next to her. With a depleted assurance he informs her that he is her husband Ben (Colin Firth), helpfully corroborated by the picture collage of their life tacked on the bathroom wall and, despite her mindset being in her mid-20’s, she’s 40-years-old and suffering from anterograde amnesia following a horrific accident; as she sleeps her mind will erase the day’s activities and she will wake to repeat the same uncertainty she experiences every morning. Assisting with her treatment is neuropsychologist Dr Nash (Mark Strong) who has prompted the use of a video diary in the hope that Christine recording her daily activity will help trigger her stagnant memory. Initially this seems to do the trick as memory fragments are triggered, but it also raises concern for Christine as Dr Nash insists their sessions remain private, and when random imagery of a man with a scarred face, a woman with red hair, and a blood spattered hotel room start to cloud her conscious, she starts to question both her sanity and her safety.

Initially it appears that ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ will at least be an enjoyable enough B-grade thriller as the unfolding relationships between Christine and both Ben and Dr Nash is interesting enough to hold focus, and the trio of talent all deliver acceptable performances – although Kidman’s English accent occasionally trips with inconsistency – but almost as if it knows it’s heading towards a ludicrous climax, it stumbles in its third act when the truth about Christine’s “accident” is revealed. Customary genre tools like darkness, sudden music cues, and unsettling noises are all unnecessarily utilised as Kidman plays the helpless victim in an overblown finale that elicited more hilarity than horror from the audience.

Kidman, Firth and Strong are all better than a thriller of this ilk, a particularly vanilla take on a should-be complex chiller that’s riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies. Whilst we’re not as lucky as to forget this following a night’s sleep, it won’t be long before this tepid piece is erased from your subconscious.

My rating: 2.5/5

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