Before I Go To Sleep (2014)

Before I Go To Sleep (2014)

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Her husband was into some really scary stuff.
Her husband was into some really scary stuff.

Twitter Plot Summary: Christine suffers from memory loss. What happened to her, and which of the two men in her life is telling the truth?

Five Point Summary:

1. Photos in the bathroom. Because moisture doesn’t affect paper at all.
2. Video diary. Nice narrative device.
3. Memory flashes, and stories start to unravel…
4. Argh, who’s telling the truth?!
5. Appropriate ending, but lacks punch.

Before I Go To Sleep is one of several movie adaptation of a novel being released this year, this one coming from the book of the same name by author SJ Watson. Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong, this is a story of amnesia, past abuse, and trying to work out which character is lying – because, obviously, someone has to be.

Christine (Kidman) wakes up one morning not knowing who the man sleeping next to her is. The bathroom wall is covered with photos of her and the man, Ben (Firth), and indicates that they are married and have been a couple for some years. He explains her situation, that there was an accident many years ago and she lost her memory as a result. After running through her list of allergies, interests etc, he heads off to work and leaves her to get on with her day.

Then things get more interesting as Dr Nasch (Strong) calls her to advise that he’s been providing therapy sessions for her behind Ben’s back, and that she has been keeping a video diary. Christine’s use of a video diary to recount her days is a nice twist on the original novel’s written entries, and is a more appropriate means of presenting this in a cinematic setting.

As the plot develops, it becomes more and more unclear as to who is lying and which of Christine’s memory flashes are true or just the result of her damaged mind. Threads of her past life slowly come to the fore, saving the narrative from treading similar territory as Groundhog Day. There’s also some solid direction on show, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality and leaving the audience in the dark until the time is right for the big reveal.

The art of sitting in adjacent chairs facing opposite directions.
The art of sitting in adjacent chairs facing opposite directions.

The drab, domestic setting does plenty to keep things feeling claustrophobic, a feeling that remains even when Christine ventures outside. It’s light on locations with much of the action taking place within Christine and Ben’s home, relying on the strength of Kidman and Firth’s performances to keep things going. They’re more than capable of holding up their end of this bargain, Kidman in particular portrays a porcelain level of fragility that makes it easy to empathise with her, although it’s Mark Strong who arguably steals the show as he invariably does. Much like Ben, Dr Nasch is a complicated character and Strong is adept at enhancing those character traits with the minimum of effort.

Before I Go To Sleep is a well-structured thriller backed up by good direction and strong performances from the three central actors of Kidman, Strong and Firth. It could have been improved by seeing more of Christine’s life building up to the accident, but there’s enough there for everything to slot into place for the audience to understand her situation. It also suffers from an anticlimax of a final scene which lacks the impact of the build-up established earlier in the story. Still, everything escalates at a nice pace leading up to that slightly lacklustre ending, and that is perhaps why the finale lacks the punch it would otherwise have had.

Score: 3.5/5

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