Every morning Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up a stranger in her own home. Panic stricken as she notices a man next to her in bed, he slowly explains that he is her husband and that she suffered a terrible accent that left her with amnesia that resets every night when she goes to sleep. With the help of Dr Nasch (Mark Strong), Christine tries to regain her memory. Until one day when terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everybody around her, and what really happened on the day of her accident.
Based on the bestselling novel by S.J. Watson and brought to the screen by director Rowan Joffe, who previously gave us the darkly disturbing Brighton Rock, this intriguing amnesia thriller gave cause for concern as to what would happen if this actually happened to us. Would we trust those around us each ‘new’ day?
Nicole Kidman’s ‘next door neighbour’ style to Christine easily put us into the characters life – she struggles to grasp reality every day and we were right there alongside her and willing her to understand all over again. It’s the type of role that demands someone to constantly be on edge, to never fully be aware of those around her.
Dr Nasch flits in and out of the opening third as a comfort blanket for Christine, a guy who she feels can be relied on with no ulterior motives. Whilst Mark Strong is easily reliable to play that role, the film never seems to give him much more to work with part from what’s directly in front of him. The interaction between Christine and Dr Nasch struggles to go anywhere once the ailment has been established each time, ultimately ending up at the same dead end each day.
Thankfully the character that keeps this thriller ticking is Christine’s husband Ben (Colin Firth). A man that will do anything for her every single ‘new’ day that occurs. A guy we instantly warmed to as he appeared caring. But appearances can be deceitful, and as the film progresses so too does Ben’s inner works creating a foreboding tension that something clearly isn’t right. A sense of danger that something is going to happen – but what? Full credit to Colin Firth for making a placid character turn into a mystery man in such a short space of time. And Firth looks to be having a great time finally getting to play a different role. He needs more roles like this.
The problem Before I Go To Sleep has is that, like most amnesia thrillers, once the main subject has to rediscover who they are all over again every day it becomes boring. Even with small discovery additions it isn’t enough to lift the movie away from already wallowing in tedious repeat. There is a constant struggle to find its feet in the plot and pull it out of ad infinitum reruns. Sadly this is where the movie falls apart and never rediscovers that initial shock and awe of what to expect.
Alongside an ending that is guaranteed to shock but in an all-too obvious way, Before I Go To Sleep has suspense but ultimately falls into a mediocre drama.