Film review: BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, from Built For Speed

Psychological thriller Before I Go to Sleep will inevitably draw comparisons with Chris Nolan’s Memento. Like Memento this film features a character with anterograde amnesia whose lost memories hides a disturbing past.  Unfortunately, this film is not the wonderfully clever and fascinating puzzle that Memento proved to be.

Nicole Kidman plays Christine Lucas a woman who wakes each morning to find that she doesn’t recognise the house in which he lives or the man sleeping beside her who claims to be her husband Ben (Colin firth).  She learns that following a mysterious attack several years earlier she has developed an amnesiac condition that wipes her memory each night so that every day she has to re-learn who she is.  Pictures and messages her husband has placed around the house provide some clues but a call from a psychiatrist, Dr Nasch (Mark Strong) suggests that all is not as it seems.  As fragments of memory return Christine begins to question the reality presented to her and tries to reclaim a life hidden in the  deep recesses of her mind.

This is essentially an old school paranoia thriller in which an innocent woman is forced to confront a sinister reality.  The film employs a tenuous but mostly successful mechanism of  feeding the audience tantalising tid-bits of information and red herrings to keeping them guessing about the true motives of the people in Christine’s life.  The early part of the film successfully conjures a sense of unease and threat as Christine desperately tries to uncover the reality of her existence.  Around the half-way point, though, characters’ true motives start to become a little obvious and the plot embraces thriller clichés causing it to lose its powerful grip.

Although the plot ultimately disappoints, writer/ director Rowan Joffe still manages to maintain some level of interest by suffusing the film with a tense noirish atmosphere and a stylish look reminiscent of David Fincher’s films.

Nicole Kidman delivers a slightly erratic performance shifting from convincingly threatened to wide eyed and loopy but for the most part she gains the audience’s sympathies.  Colin Firth is classy as always but in an underwritten role he isn’t given the opportunity to develop his character to the extent needed. Mark Strong is typically effective in the psychiatrist role although he like Kidman is a little too earnest at times.

Before I Go to Sleep  is almost a really good thriller and maybe if a different eye had been cast over the third act it could have been one of the year’s more memorable films.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Thriller.

Classification: MA 15+.

Director(s): Rowan Joffe.

Release date: 16th Oct 2014

Running time: 92 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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