Christine (Nicole Kidman) awakes every morning with no memory of her life before she was in her 20s. Now in her 40s, Christine was the victim of a violent incident 10 years previously that caused her anterograde amnesia, and, with the help of Dr Nasch (Mark Strong) she is trying to recover her memory and get to the bottom of what happened to her. When memories start to return, Christine is plagued with doubt and new fears about who she can trust.
Based on the best selling novel by S. J. Watson, Before I Go To Sleep feels a little like 50 First Dates meets Memento, with a little less of the Nolan thriller and a little more of the Adam Sandler movie thrown in to balance it out.
Nicole Kidman manages to leave most of her usual kinks and quirks at the door for her performance as Christine, and it is through her eyes that we see the film. Kidman has not quite regained her glory days in terms of acting prowess, but she is believable, and gets the audience on her side. Mark Strong treads his usual line between good and bad, and it is in part his performance that keeps the audience guessing. Strong is far less manic and obviously evil than we have seen in a long time, and he manages the role of Dr Nasch with grace and ease. Colin Firth rounds out the central trio as Christine’s husband Ben. Firsth’s performance is careful; allowing Ben to be a caring and gentle man, with just touches of a man who is only just holding on to his temper and violent tendencies.
The script, adapted from the novel, by Rowan Joffe, Before I Go To Sleep is a carefully rendered and tightly wound thriller. The dialogue is, at times, a little hokey, and the deus ex machina ending is more than a little twee, but Christine’s days are carefully woven together, allowing the audience a glimpse into the character’s terrifying world. As director, Joffe keeps the pace of the movie galloping along, meaning that the audience is given time to make their own theories about the person who attacked Christine, but the twists come fast enough to keep us guessing. That said, everything falls apart in the final act of the film, where the line between friend and foe becomes horrifically blurred and cliché rattles in to save the day. Still, there are some nice Shining-esque touches to the cinematography, and Anne-Marie Duff’s performance as Claire is a vice of reason in a disordered world.
Before I Go To Sleep is two thirds of a great thriller, the twists and turns come fast, keeping the audience on their toes, but the final act is sloppy and breathlessly trite. Kidman is the weak link in the central trio – and still gives her best performance in years. Firth and Strong tread the line between calm and rage with grace.