Directed by Rowan Joffe
It’s unfortunate that Before I Go to Sleep comes out on the heels of the excellent, tautly-wound marriage mockery thriller Gone Girl; otherwise, it might have stood on its own merits more steadily. This film is also based on an international best-seller and is also about a union built on lies and deception. Its unique twist, though, is that one of the spouses is an amnesiac. For a movie about memory loss, I guess it’s an easy dig to say it’s “forgettable” – but let’s face it: It’s no Spellbound or Memento.
Before I Go to Sleep is the mantra of Christine Lucas (Kidman), a 40-year-old woman who wakes up every day with no memory after the age of 20 as the result of a traumatic accident five years ago. Each morning when she rises, her husband, Ben (Firth), must remind her of who he is, who she is, and what’s going on. Every. Single. Day. But one day is suddenly different from the rest, and new, terrifying truths begin to emerge that make Christine question everything she thinks she knows about her life.
As the mystery unravels, so does Christine – as do the people around her. Ben gets quite testy as she remembers more; her neuropsychologist, Dr. Nasch (Strong), pushes her into recalling things she’d rather forget; and best friend, Claire (Duff), comes out with some rather shocking revelations. All the while Christine gets closer and closer to remembering everything.
It’s a great premise and the casting is stellar, but unfortunately it’s tonally quite flat. It has elements of Polanski in the look and feel (it’s a stark, stylish, and gorgeously shot movie) but with almost none of the mastery of manipulation or the characteristic suspense.
I have not read the book, but the film suffers from far too many plot holes. Even a quick line of dialogue explaining a thing or two at the end (oh, I’m bristling to talk about these moments, but to do so would be spoiler-city and I can’t do that) would have done a lot to salvage things. What’s more, rather than ending with a decisive Bang!, the flick slinks out with a soft whimper.
Still, regardless of my issues with the logic and resolution, I can’t quite discount Before I Go to Sleep so I do give it a cautionary thumbs-up because for the most part it’s quite absorbing. The acting performances are great – especially Nicole Kidman, whose minimalist style serves her especially well here (reminiscent of her work in The Others).