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Before I Go To Sleep
Before I Go To Sleep

Directed Rowan Joffe

Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong

Amnesia, a relatively uncommon medical condition in real life, yet an old standby of film and TV. It again raises it’s forgetful head in the adaptation of Before I Go To Sleep, giving us a story that is a rather strange mix of 50 First Dates and Memento as it looks into the mystery surrounding the life of an amnesiac housewife.

Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) has retrograde amnesia. Each day she wakes up, incapable of remembering anything that has happened in her life since she was in her 20s (half a lifetime ago) and each night as she goes to sleep, she loses the memories that she has formed that day. Her husband, Ben (Colin Firth), helps her deal with her memory loss by doling out portions of her life story since “the accident,” but Christine also has been secretly receiving help from Dr Nash (Mark Strong). As she starts to learn more of her past she discovers that both men are lying to her, both are manipulating her, and both say it is for her own good. Can Christine trust either of them?

There is something a little drab and dreary about Before I Go To Sleep. Despite the rather solid plot, thanks to its strong roots in SJ Watson’s best selling novel, the film feels somewhat lacklustre. Slow and tedious, rather than a solid building of tension. Again this could be what works in one medium (in this case the minutiae of Christine’s life as she slowly builds coping mechanisms to deal with her memory and the mysteries surrounding it) doesn’t always translate well to another, but that is only part of the issue. The ashen colour palette of the picture, the glacial pacing, and Kidman’s somnambulist performance all sink this to the level of an ordinary thriller (at best). When Before I Go To Sleep does reveal its twist, it does show glimpses of genuine tension before squandering it and sinking back to it’s rather dull pacing.

With so much of the story dedicated to Kidman’s character, this is her movie to make or break. Unfortunately her performance is rather ordinary. Again Kidman is teamed with Firth as husband and wife, as she was in The Railway Man, but this pairing seems less convincing. Here she again she is in overly serious mode, acting everything out with exaggerated earnestness and little sense of naturalism, but what worked for her in the context of the 1940s, fails in her portrayal of a modern woman. Her frailty seems forced and somewhat galling. By contrast both Colin Firth and Mark Strong are well cast in their roles, capable of being hero or villain as the finger of doubt shifts over them (and away again) over the course of the story. This is not to say that either of them puts in a sterling performance, but rather they are serviceable in the roles.

A rather average thriller that is about as memorable as its lead character’s day.


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