Before I Go to Sleep Review

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The irony of an unmemorable memory-loss thriller

by Casimir Harlow Sep 8, 2014 at 7:17 AM

  • Movies review


    Before I Go to Sleep Review

    Setting its sights on being a memorable Memento-esque memory-mystery thriller, the latest pairing of Kidman and Firth plays out like a dark variation on the 50 First Dates concept, trading in paranoia and dead ends, but saving the decent twists and thrills until far too late.

    Painting it's story in monotonously repetitive strokes, what clearly worked extremely well for the massively popular bestseller of the same name on which the film was based, doesn't translate to solid thrills here. The film wastes far too much of its runtime establishing its memory-loss don't-trust-anybody angle, and not enough time developing the characters it wishes us to follow through this mystery maze, jumping us straight into the mess but failing to give us enough to hold on to.
    When the expected, although not entirely predictable, revelations eventually come, they have a hefty punch - quite literally - but don't carry any lasting impact because we're not really invested in these souls. If they spent a little more time dissecting Kidman's fraught heroine, rather than just having her repeat phrases into a camera to hammer home her memory issues, then they might have salvaged a more satisfying thriller from this undercooked - and ultimately, for fans of the book, disappointing - mystery drama.

    Before I Go to Sleep
    The story sees Kidman's protagonist waking, believing herself to be in the body of a 20 something, but shocked to discover that she's actually 40 and happily married for 14 years. This because she has been suffering from memory problems ever since a terrible car crash. She's also yet more surprised to learn from a concerned doctor that she's been visiting him for the last few weeks and has had a hidden camera installed to record herself. Desperate to find out the truth about what has happened to her, she soon finds herself trapped in a world of increasing paranoia, questioning the motivations of everybody around her and at a loss as to who to trust.

    With a little more script- and character-development, the eventual, inevitable "high-tension" denouement may have had more impact.

    Produced by Ridley Scott - who optioned the rights to adapt the book and then gave it to Rowan Joffe to handle directorial duties and write the screenplay too - Before I Go to Sleep is certainly clinically efficient, with a director clearly able to manage his game cast, but it simply lacks any noteworthy style, and utterly falls down when it comes to its script, with Joffe - who previously wrote screenplays for paranoia-twinged thrillers The Last Resort, 28 Weeks Later, and The American - unable to here paint his characters with enough depth or dimension to compel you on this voyage.

    Kidman and Firth commit to their characters, and deserve credit for doing their utmost with the material - with Kidman turning up the distraught anxious feverishness, and Firth continuing a run of seemingly more morally ambiguous roles - but they can only carry the movie so far. Even Mark Strong puts in an expectedly decent turn as the doctor, but doesn't get anywhere near enough screentime to feel well-rounded.

    Those expecting little more than an average, competently-made mystery thriller with game performances from Kidman, Firth and Strong, may just about get that.

    The Rundown

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