On the heels of Gone Girl comes another twisty-turny thriller based on a best-selling book. Before I Go to Sleep (opening today) is not nearly as riveting, but it does offer itself up as a solid entry in the genre.
Nicole Kidman is Christine, a woman with a severe and special case of amnesia. Every time she goes to sleep, she cannot remember the day before. We begin just as clueless as her, as she awakens wide-eyed laying next to Ben (Colin Firth), presumably her husband, who explains to her that she had a severe injury a while back that has led to this condition. Ben explains things to her every day like this, making the situation just as hard, if not harder, than what Christine must be experiencing.
This particular day, Ben leaves for work and the phone rings. On the other end is Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), a pyschiatrist who tells Christine that he knows that his name means nothing to her, but that they have been secretly communicating recently in an attempt to cure her of her problem. They do it out of sight from Ben, who wouldn’t approve of more tests. Dr. Nasch directs her to a shoebox in her closet that reveals a video camera. Christine sees a recording of herself, and each day the pattern repeats. But each day Christine has a new piece of self-made video to work with in trying to solve just what is going on.
With the movie being told mostly from the perspective of Christine (Kidman is quite literally in every single scene except one), we are quickly sucked into her confused and terrifying world. The film does a good job of making us guess as to who and what we should believe, and whom we can trust.
Kidman is very good in the role, but is not given much more to do than look absolutely petrified at every turn. Firth and Strong are, well, strong…in their roles as well. The acting isn’t the problem.
The problem is that in movies dealing with amnesia, plot conveniences and contrivances seem to come hand-in-hand. Christine’s secret therapy does seem to be slowly jogging her memory, but key pieces of her past are revealed or remembered at precisely the right time in order for the movie to have a plot and move forward. If these exact memories don’t happen at these exact moments, we don’t have a film. In addition to this, not all of the characters motivations throughout the film are made clear by the film’s end, which makes for a somewhat frustrating go.
But Before I Go to Sleep draws you in and just when it seems to start slowing down and running out of steam, it offers up some interesting twists, playing with our expectations. I’m not all that sure that most of these developments won’t be spotted by those who haven’t read the book, but the film’s latter third – also the film’s strongest – definitely has some delicious treats up its sleeve, just in time for Halloween.
Comparisons with the better, more effective thriller, Gone Girl, are unavoidable. But taken on its own, Before I Go to Sleep should satisfy most movie-goers, even if it becomes quickly forgotten by morning.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong
Based on the novel by S.J. Watson
Written & Directed by Rowan Joffe (director of Brighton Rock, screenwriter of 28 Weeks Later, The American)
Opens locally on Friday, Oct 24, 2014 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli’s “Star Ratings:”
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time