Director: Rowan Joffe
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff, Dean-Charles Chapman, Adam Levy
Written by: Rowan Joffe and (based on the novel) S.J. Watson
Running Time: 92 mins
Release date: 5th September 2014
Before I Go To Sleep takes a well-worn plot device, amnesia, to produce, what starts out as a very intriguing thriller which, like an onion, has many layers. As each layer is slowly peeled away, the plot becomes more and more ludicrous till it becomes utterly bonkers and then, crash and burn with the laziest, most sloppy ending this year. Thankfully the strength of the leads keeps it afloat but only just.
Every morning Christine wakes up, she has to be reminded about her life by her husband, Ben. She then receives a phone call from a psychiatrist, Dr. Nash, who is trying to help her reclaim her memory but is keeping the truth from her husband. With the aid of s camera, Christine keeps a diary of everything she is told or discovers through the day. What she does know is that something isn’t right about the two men in her life and that she has to slowly place the pieces of her life and understand exactly how she got to the position she is in now.
Rowan Joffe’s film version of S.J.Watson’s novel starts off well. We are introduced to Christine and her plight, with a short, sharp explanation by Ben about her waking up with no memory. The walls are covered with photos of happier times between the amnesia victim and her husband, a board lists things that she can do during the day while he is out teaching. It’s a solid beginning and you feel that while this is simple enough the rest of the film isn’t going to be. Then the phone calls begin from Dr Nash and you begin to wonder what is going on. Why doesn’t the good, kindly doctor want her other half to know about their meetings?
This is when it starts kicking in properly and we are told more and more another slip of information is delivered. Gripping, yes and Joffe keeps the pace moving along sharply so we don’t notice any holes. It manages to tiptoe along the edge of thriller and melodrama, with the impressive leads doing their best to make us believe. Then it does something we don’t expect. It no longer balances between the two genre and just jumps head first into the world of melodrama, getting more and more bizarre as it continues along its way, till it hits a point where we get a very brutal and violent fight scene (including an unintentionally hilarious piece of handy prop placement).
This would have been fine and good but it then seems as if Joffe loses his confidence and gives us an ending that will leave you disappointed and slightly cheated. Having sat through 80 minutes of twists and turns and lies and deceits, the final scene is a massive cop-out and doesn’t satisfy anyone. In fact, I might go so far as to say this is the worst ending to a movie this year.
Helping us along our way are three perfectly pitched performances. Nicole Kidman, still with the bad taste of Grace Of Monaco in her mouth, proves to us she is a good actress, playing the scared and confused Christine so well, you believe her plight and you sympathise with her longing for the truth. It’s as good a lead role as she has given in a long while. Mark Strong as the mysterious Dr. Nash, is always good value and he doesn’t disappoint here, mixing kindness with an air of intrigue.
The film’s star performer is Colin Firth. Playing Ben, the second film this year he has shared the screen with Kidman, after The Railway Man, we watch Firth go from pain-ridden husband, trying to cope with having to go through the same routine day in and day out, to slowly going slight psychopath as the film progresses. It is a masterclass in scene chewing and he is finally given the chance to get away with it. It’s one of the film’s delights.
Before I Go To Sleep could have been a masterpiece in thrillers but with its lack of conviction by the end and a bonkers plot that gets madder by the minute, it’s a perfectly fine time waster but with the cast on full throttle, they deserve much better than this. A missed opportunity.