Review: Before I Go To Sleep (2014)

Before I Go To Sleep - 2014 - 1

Director: Rowan Joffé
Screenwriter: Rowan Joffé
Based on the novel of the same name by S.J. Watson
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth & Anne-Marie Duff
Runtime: 92 min // Certificate: 15

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9QNAJm8E5g]

Christine Lucas (Kidman; Stoker) is an insomniac who wakes up every morning with no recollection of the events of the last fourteen years of her life; heck, she can’t even remember the previous day. Her husband Ben (Firth; The King’s Speech) cares for her and tries to make her existence as comfortable as possible, though he is unaware that Christine is also being helped by Dr. Nash (Strong; Zero Dark Thirty), a neuropsychologist with a particular interest in Christine’s life story. With Dr. Nash’s assistance and encouragement, and without her husband’s knowledge, Christine is keeping a video diary; a diary which she uses to keep on track of what she has learnt and a diary full of previous entries that seem to suggest that her loving, doting husband can’t be trusted…

So goes the subpar Hitchcockian plot of Before I Go To Sleep, Rowan Joffé’s adaptation of the novel of the same name. If you think it sounds familiar, take a quick look at the plots of any of the nineties thrillers on your DVD shelf and you’ll get a decent understanding for what we’re dealing with here. With its preposterous plot, its daft contrivances and its consistent inconsistencies, Before I Go To Sleep is a passable but – fittingly enough – completely forgettable thriller that does little to halt Nicole Kidman’s slow but steady decline into disappointing mediocrity.

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The problem with Before I Go To Sleep is simple; it’s all been done before, and it makes no effort whatsoever to stand out from the crowd. Within minutes it’s obvious who the villains are, it’s clear where things are heading and it doesn’t matter whether you bother to pay attention or not, because you just know that the inevitable final-act twist is bound to be utterly implausible. That Joffé’s take on the story is so po-faced is the final nail in the coffin, as it results in a film that is dour, dreary and grey in both appearance and personality.

Three decent central performances and a likeable turn from Anne-Marie Duff (The Magdalene Sisters) as one of Christine’s friends just about rescue the film from the brink of complete collapse, but no amount of thespian excellence can make up for the killer combination of a lacklustre script and a shoddy story. At barely 90 minutes, the film at least passes by relatively quickly and inoffensively, and there are a few moments that are pretty enjoyable but for the most part, Before I Go To Sleep is little more than a serious and solemn version of the insufferable 50 First Dates, something which – let’s face it – has never exactly been high on anyone’s cinematic wish list…

★★

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