VOD film review: Before I Go to Sleep
Ivan Radford | On 19, Jan 2015Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Rowan Joffe
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong
Watch Before I Go to Sleep online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“My name is Christine Lucas and I have amnesia. Tonight, as I sleep, my mind will erase everything I know today.”
If you think you’ve heard that speech before but can’t remember where, it’s only apt: Before I Go to Sleep’s memory games seem as old as cinema itself. Kidman plays Christine, a woman who wakes up each morning not knowing who she is or where she’s been. And every morning, without fail, her husband, Ben (Colin Firth), is there to explain it all to her.
One day, though, Christine receives a phone call from a man saying he’s called Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), asking her to keep a video diary of every day, so she won’t forget any new memories she makes. So far, so Memento. But Rowan Joffe’s thriller wants to be more Hitchcock than Nolan, playing Christine’s uncertainty and doubt with the old-school feel of a 1940s thriller.
The cinematography is spot on, but at times, the approach feels too creaky, a sensation caused by the predictable plot twists and unsubtle dialogue. “I wonder what else he lies about…” wonders Christine aloud after discovering a deception, staring pointedly into the middle distance. Compare it to the smooth shifting between gears achieved by Steven Soderbergh in the similarly Hitchcockian Side Effects and the difference is jarring,.
But Kidman’s wild eyes and even wilder hair are surprisingly convincing in the role of distressed damsel – if there were an Oscar for Best Impression of a Panicked Deer, she would be Meryl Streep. The rest of the trio are equally on form, with Mark Strong’s stubbled doctor a perfect contrast to Colin Firth’s Cary Grant-like gent. It’s a smart piece of casting, because both men are so likeable that you find yourself switching sympathies (and suspicions) every few scenes.
Joffe’s script, though, takes itself slightly too seriously to pull off its sillier moments; this, you often feel, is the work of the man who remade Brighton Rock, rather than the subtle screenwriter who penned The American; less Spellbound and more 50 First Dates: Redux. But the engaging performances and impressively tight pacing – this clocks in at just 92 minutes – make Before I Go to Sleep an enjoyable, if forgettable, piece of hokum. Will you remember any of it tomorrow morning? Not a bit. But in this case, that might actually be a good thing.