Based on S.J. Watson`s novel: Before I Go To Sleep
Written by: Rowan Joffe
Directed by: Rowan Joffe
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ben Crompton, Anne-Marie Duff, Adam Levy
A woman wakes up every day and remembers nothing – not the day before, or the last fourteen years of her life. The only thing she knows about herself is that her name is Christine. And she would not even remember that, if not for a piece of paper with her name on it stuck the on wall, or a man whom she sees every time she wakes up. One day she decides to record her every passing day, to help her remember things she keeps forgetting. On one of these days she realizes that something is not quite right about everything that’s around her. She does not remember who to trust because her memory is erased every time she wakes up..
‘Before I go to Sleep’ is based on S.J. Watson’s best-selling novel and directed by Rowan Joffe. It begins with Christine, who opens her eyes without understanding where she is. She stares at her hands and does not understand why they look older than she would expect. Then, she turns around, and sees a man, who is sleeping peacefully. Then Christine, with the look of a thousand questions on her face, goes into the bathroom to find lots of pictures of herself with a man she doesn’t know; the man she saw when she first woke up. When she gets back to the room, she finds the strange man sitting on the bed who introduces himself as Ben- her husband.
Then, he tells her a story that he repeats every day; the story of her accident, which is why she remembers nothing about her past life. Before he leaves for work, he asks Christine to pack her belongings because he has planned a nice surprise for her for their wedding anniversary. After he leaves, the phone rings, and a man on the phone introduces himself as Dr. Nash, who works with Christine on her memory problems. He tells her about a camera that is hidden in her wardrobe where she will find a recording of the last two weeks of her life. The recording will take Christine back to two weeks earlier, to find out that she can’t trust anyone, not even the man, who claims to be her husband.
If you have read S.J. WATSON‘s novel ‘Before I Go To Sleep’, then you know that Christine was using a notebook to record everything happening to her before she went to sleep. But for the movie, Rowan Joffe, who also wrote the script, changed it to a photo camera which is seemingly more relevant to the film. Joffe manages to keep us in suspense and makes us wonder what is going to happen next, even though the ending can be easily predicted. However, ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ reminds us of the beloved, old-fashioned, suspense thrillers like “Don`t Talk With Strangers” or “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” (1992) with Rebecca De Mornay. Despite the fact that I have read the book, it still manages to keep me on the edge of my seat, and mostly because of Nicole Kidman’s performance, pulling you in to her confusion and roller coaster of emotions as she goes through each day find out a new set of facts. After all, Nicole Kidman knows well how to manage this kind of role.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Colin Firth, who is in my opinion, one of the best actors out there. But Firth could not quite convince me that either he cares, or hates, Kidman’s Christine, while Kidman portrays Christine the way it was written in the book: fragile, broken, and hopeless but who still has no desire to give up. In another word, Firth does not really look like himself, which is unusual for such talented actor. The entire film holds on Kidman’s performance, which was superb in some scenes; where she is reminiscent of Anna from “Birth”. Jaffe knows that if you get a chance to direct Nicole Kidman, he better give her what she wants, and all that she wants is to deliver her best performance, even though, I find that Nicole could not be much better than she was in Before I Go To Sleep. If she was to deliver the kind of performance that we all expect, it would certainly look like overacting, which we surely don’t want to see. This is why Nicole does what Christine does and fights for her right to know the truth- nothing more, nothing less.
Before I Go To Sleep is one of those rare psychological thrillers we do not see these days. It’s chilling, attractive and entertaining, as well as very well executed. And Nicole Kidman delivers a ‘a dead-calm-style’ performance. It certainly is worth watching this film in its genre, and a well done cat-and-mouse game, in which, we as an audience, will wish Hollywood would bring back- a genre that was forgotten and left in the 1990’s.