tue 18/05/2021

Before I Go To Sleep | reviews, news & interviews

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep

This incredibly beautiful homegrown British thriller can't quite do the business

Nicole Kidman runs for her life as the amnesiac Christine in Before I Go To Sleep

Everyone loves a homegrown hero – and they don’t get more homegrown than Before I Go to Sleep, the thriller written and directed by Rowan Joffe, son of Roland Joffe, director of The Killing Fields and The Mission. Before I Go To Sleep is, arguably, one of the most anticipated British films of 2014. The script is based on the Faber Academy sensation of 2011, ex-audiologist S.J. Watson’s novel of the same name.

Everyone loves a homegrown hero – and they don’t get more homegrown than Before I Go to Sleep, the thriller written and directed by Rowan Joffe, son of Roland Joffe, director of The Killing Fields and The Mission. Before I Go To Sleep is, arguably, one of the most anticipated British films of 2014. The script is based on the Faber Academy sensation of 2011, ex-audiologist S.J. Watson’s novel of the same name. Taken on by Ridley Scott’s production company, the high-end cast stars Nicole Kidman as Christine Lucas, Mark Strong as her physician Dr Nash and Colin Firth as Ben, her husband. British productions don't get a better pedigree than this.

The plot is complicated: Lucas (Kidman) is a vulnerable woman. A car accident has damaged her memory so, goldfish-like, she can only remember a few moments of every waking day. Still, she manages to make an audio diary, encouraged by her possibly menacing but certainly sexy doctor (Strong). This displeases her sexy but controlling husband (Firth). Years after her accident, she finds pieces of her life aren’t fitting together as smoothly as they should, although she only barely questions Ben’s dominating personality. He tells her they’ve been married for years. To her, he seems like a stranger every morning: she suffers from the kind of amnesia that means her memory is reset each time she sleeps.

How the story unravels is key: Christine begins to question and track down her past is intricate and a little hard to believe. Although it does deviate somewhat from the book, Joffe’s take needs to be visual to work. And it is but it ends up being a contorted visual and verbal rollercoaster that is difficult to credit. There are many plot holes as well – which doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the film. It does mean that you have to suspend your disbelief and almost allow the film to exist in reality (where weird stuff happens) rather than fiction (where things have to make sense). In an effort to keep us off-balance and questioning what we see, Joffe shoots many scenes “as if”, risking that the audience will grow weary of trying to follow the plotline and say, “You know, whatever.”

Kidman wanted to work with Firth again after The Railway Man, a film that should have been better given the emotive and important topic. Here, although Kidman is as weak, challenged and growing in strength as her character Christine should be, it is hard to believe Firth as menacing. There is a clean, professionalism between them when there should be more menace and heat. Also, it is distracting to see Dr Nash – her main connection to the truth of her past - as a possible suspect. It works in theory but in practice it doesn’t. This is not to say that fans of the book won’t enjoy seeing a high-calibre cast play out the bestseller they’ve enjoyed. Nervous and neurotic, this is a film aware of the fact that it has a lot of, um, explaining to do.

Ultimately, it is an incredibly beautiful classy British thriller that can't quite do the business. Cinematography by Ben Davis (Guardians of the Galaxy) is sensational even if the obviously talented Joffe has yet to find the right vehicle for his massive potential.

Nervous and neurotic, this is a film aware of the fact that it has a lot of, um, explaining to do

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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