Before I Go to Sleep
2014, R, 92 min. Directed by Rowan Joffe. Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff.
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Nov. 7, 2014
Crafting a strong cinematic thriller built around sharp, unexpected twists in plot and character is impossibly hard, especially given that much of the audience for such fare are savvy genre veterans, way too sharp to fall for deliberate misdirection or false leads. Before I Go to Sleep still offers a near encyclopedic look at what not to do.
It begins with Christine (Kidman) waking up, seeming startled and a little disoriented by the man sleeping next to her. Rubbing her eyes, she goes into the bathroom where she encounters a stalker's wall of photos focused on the man and herself. Returning to the bedroom, she finds him sitting on the edge of the bed waiting for her. Patiently, he explains that he is Ben (Firth), her husband, but she doesn't recognize him because, as the result of a terrible accident years ago, she has a form of amnesia whereby each morning she wakes with her memory completely wiped clean.
This is 50 First Dates-dark, but lacking that film’s humor, characterizations, dramatic interest, and consistency. Even a sea of red herrings can be more boring than misleading when none is very believable. This outing offers hardly a goldfish bowl of possibilities.
In a film that makes paint-by-numbers simplicity seem an unusually sophisticated goal, the excellent cast – including the often outstanding Kidman and Firth – is wasted. Sadly, the only real tension they contribute comes from speculating as to how a project that must have been so promising to attract them ended up going so terribly astray.
A bit of a spoiler warning here, though few of you will probably ever watch this work: Insult is added to injury in the film’s bizarrely peaceful coda that wraps up no loose ends and sinks it even further into mediocrity. Imagine if at the end of Psycho, Norman Bates' mom turned out to be a sweet old lady innocently rocking in her chair.