Before I Go to Sleep Review
By Rich Cline
A clever premise can't help but grab the audience's attention as this mystery-thriller plays with ideas of identity and memory, but the simplistic filmmaking makes it feel like a cheat. Writer-director Rowan Joffe (2010's Brighton Rock remake) badly underestimates the audience, using melodrama and contrived storytelling to try to manipulate viewers' emotions. And it doesn't help that the leading lady can't move her face.
Nicole Kidman stars as Christine, who wakes up every morning thinking that she's 23. When she discovers Ben (Colin Firth) in her bed, she's almost as horrified as when she sees her 40-year-old face in the mirror. But Ben patiently explains who she is, that he's her husband and that an accident damaged her ability to make new long-term memories. When he leaves for work each day, she is contacted by Dr Nash (Mark Strong), who helps nudge her into the present. But all of this does little more than make Christine wonder whether anyone is telling the truth. As she digs deeper each day, she gets in touch with her friend Claire (Anne-Marie Duff), who offers some continuity. And by piecing clues together she begins to realise that there's a gap between what's really happening and what she thinks she remembers.
With elements of both Memento and 50 First Dates, this film is packed with tricky elements that add to the suspense, creating a creepy atmosphere that's surprisingly moving as seen through Christine's eyes. Even with her immobile face, Kidman's eyes are alert and emotive, strongly conveying Christine's yearning to understand the truth. Opposite her, the always terrific Duff has the film's best role simply because she seems to be who she claims to be. Meanwhile, Firth and Strong have a great time wrong-footing both Christine and the audience, or maybe they're just misunderstood. The fascinating premise forces us to sift through the clues ourselves to figure out what's going on.
So it's rather annoying that Joffe is clearly doling out clues as he sees fit, withholding things from us that really should have been obvious while merrily throwing red herrings into every scene. This makes the film feel seriously manipulative, as Joffe indulges in sneaky editing and a pushy score by Ed Shearmur to make scenes feel scary or happy or darkly menacing. This sometimes works, but since nothing in the film is trustworthy, the viewers have no choice but to give up trying to work things out and just wait for Joffe to reveal whatever he has in mind. This may still be interesting, but it's not very involving.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 31st October 2014
Distributed by: Clarius Entertainment
Production compaines: Millennium Films, Clarius Entertainment, Scott Free Productions
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 37 Rotten: 67
Cast & Crew