Before I Go To Sleep

Not so forgettable

Daylight. The morning intrudes on the previous night of sweet slumber. Awake but unsure of the surroundings there is an arm of unknown origin that partially cradles. Bedsheets peeled back, an unsteady journey begins towards the bathroom, stumbling over an obstacle course that feels more like boulders than carpet at such an unforgiving time of day. Click, the light flickers into action, it’s rays force eyelids closed like a startled clam. Eventually the muscles relax enough to allow stilted vision only to find a stranger staring directly back. It takes a moment but the stranger is hauntingly familiar.

Anyway, that’s how my mornings generally start and it’s not too dissimilar to how Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) wakes up either. At this point of course my brain starts to construct my reality. Oh yeah! It’s about 6am, that’s a mirror and that’s what ‘roughly’ looks like me staring back. I’m in my house and I woke up next to my girlfriend. This isn’t the case for Christine however as she suffers from amnesia, every day starts off bemusing and only gets more confusing.

Similar to Memento, the wonderful Christopher Nolan film from 2000, every day Christine has to piece together bits of information that will help her remember her past. This is done by photos and notes littered about the house by her husband Ben (Colin Firth). What Ben doesn’t know is that Christine has solicited the help of Dr Nash (Mark Strong) a professional psychiatrist who has suggested she keeps a secret video diary to ensure it is her thoughts being recorded and hers alone.

The film starts off very slowly, which is to it’s detriment, but is also a necessary evil. By starting off slow we get to be eased in to finding out about Christine and Ben’s back story. We find out that a brutal attack on Christine has left her unable to remember whilst also seeding the idea that Ben and Dr Nash might not be trustworthy. This slow start does help to build up tension and small punctuation marks such as traffic hurtling by unannounced provides temporary alarming release.

The slow start did also make me question the performance of the two male leads; Colin Firth felt especially ‘doughy’ and uninteresting. Christine starts realising that Ben is her protector and just before your attention starts drifting the films pace ramps up so many gears it’s like a slap in the face.

If you are terrible at guessing plot twists then congratulations it probably means you are too involved in the film to second guess it and will therefore get more out of the film than your mate who goes “Yep! Saw that coming”. In recent years I seem to be guessing plot twists more but the twist in this film was truly unexpected. Unless you have read the book it is unlikely you will guess it either.

As the film grows so do the performances and the ‘doughy’ start is all but forgotten. the fast pace trots to a satisfying conclusion but only to turn into a gushy Hollywood ending in the very last scene and that’s a real shame. I know it probably has to follow the book but simply withholding some bits of information and cutting the last scene short by about a minute and a half would have led to a much snappier ending.

The only other minor criticism is that the casting for the supporting characters didn’t feel quite right and nor did some of the dialogue. Namely Christine’s friend Claire (Anne-Marie Duff) didn’t seem like best buds. Claire mentions that Christine means so much to her but we never really know why this is as there is very little back story to flesh out this relationship apart from a few party photos.

Still, neither the ending nor the supporting cast can take away from the fact that the film was really well crafted and in hindsight had some very effective pacing. All that’s left to do is publish this before I go to sleep.

Go See

  • Great performances keep you guessing “who done it”
  • The “You are my protector” scene
  • Unexpected twist

Avoid

  • Gushy ending that doesn’t fit the feel of the rest of the film
  • Slow to get going
  • Supporting cast have too little air time

Overall

4-stars

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