Based on the 2011 bestselling book by former clinical scientist S.J. Watson, Rowan Joffe’s sophomore movie is every bit as polished-looking as his directorial debut, Brighton Rock, its action lent a sci-fi sheen by antiseptic interiors that gleam like honey.
As with Memento or, played a different way, 50 First Dates, its plot is driven by a protagonist suffering from anterograde amnesia, meaning each day she awakens with her memory wiped clean. It’s a neat enough gimmick that affords the opportunity for suspense, scares and more twists than you can shake a corkscrew at, but the action will evaporate from viewers’ minds within 24 hours.
Christine (Nicole Kidman) arises each day to learn that she was involved in an accident, while Ben (Colin Firth), her husband, sets about earning her trust and aiding the effort to reassemble her life. But there’s a catch: each morning she receives a call from psychotherapist Dr. Nash (Mark Strong) informing her of the video diary she’s keeping hidden, and contrary versions of her past start to emerge. Was she really in an accident or was it something more sinister? Who is her best friend Claire (Anne-Marie Duff)? And can Ben – or, for that matter, Dr. Nash – be trusted?
Shot by Kick-Ass DoP Ben Davis, Before I Go To Sleep features solid performances from its A-listers and packages heavyweight themes within propulsive genre trappings. But Joffe’s tidy script and slick direction never quite capture the ragged emotional heft required to make us truly care about the outcome, and the persistent memory that we’ve been here before, done better, puts a blot on proceedings.
A handsome thriller, absorbing for its duration and with a couple of neat rug-pulls. But expect a strong sense of déjà vu – you’d be better off reliving Memento.