Take a Sip: every time Christine tears up
Take a Sip: every time you change your mind of who she should trust.
Take a Sip: every time every time someone mentions Adam
Take a Sip: every time whenever you see the scar
Do a Shot: every time Christine gets hit.
By: The Cinephiliac (Four Beers) –
Films about memory loss and amnesia are not novel ideas for a story. In fact, it’s a pretty common gimmick used repeatedly in the thriller genre to add an extra umph to any given film. Before I Go to Sleep is now one of many using that gimmick in an attempt to gain a touch of respectability by being considered a “psychological thriller.” Perhaps that’s why it failed so miserably at the box office. Before I Go to Sleep is by no means an awful film, but it’s so conventional and stale in execution that it’s almost as bland as the blue-tinged lighting featured heavily throughout, resulting in a tragic opening weekend where it earned just under $2 million. It quickly dropped from its number 14 spot to off the charts in its second weekend.
“Only $2 million…what has my career come to?”
Rowan Joffe directs a slightly cohesive film about a woman who suffers daily amnesia brought on by an attack years prior. Neither detectives, police, nor Christine (Nicole Kidman) is sure of who made the attack or why. All they’ve come to know in the ten years since is Christine suffers from a rare form of amnesia where the day’s memories she has collected will disappear when she goes to sleep. Does that mean naps too? We don’t know, but every morning she awakes remembering nothing of the day before, which gets tricky when she begins to realize her attacker is still on the loose. With the help of neuroscientist Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) Christine begins piecing together the events of her life and makes a startling discovery of who she can trust and who she can’t.
Before I Go Sleep may slag in parts losing whatever slight interest viewers possess on occasion, but as a whole it’s an interesting tale that keeps you on edge waiting to see what happens next. Christine’s amnesia gives way for the perfect excuse to leave viewers in constant limbo wondering who the attacker could be at the end of each scene. Once we think we know, the story throws in a curveball to catch us off guard. The always talented Nicole Kidman’s helpless deer-in-headlights look attracts a constant concern for her well-being. As a frail, nervous shell of a woman, it’s easy to assume that every scene will be her last, making viewers either apathetic or sympathetic to her fate depending on your feelings about Kidman.
This all looks so familiar.
It’s almost too easy to compare Before I Go to Sleep to Christopher Nolan’s 2000 psychological thriller Memento, but it’s a comparison that is warranted. The issue is that Joffe’s adaptation of S. J. Watson’s novel draws those comparisons and does nothing to break the stereotype or steer away from Memento. Every day Christine forgets the past day’s events, retaining what she can by using a video camera and trusting the words and say-so of others within a haze of uncertain paranoia. While Before I Go to Sleep strays from Memento’s influence in some ways, it mostly holds on to the gimmick of revealing the truth through fragmented pieces of memory and collages. While the McGuffin is the result of an almost shocking revelation of the truth, it makes hearing the same introduction and jumping between present time and past events tiresome.
You see Christine, there’s this movie…
Before I Go to Sleep has a bit of an identity crisis of its own as the film’s own amnesia surfaces. It forgets if it’s a thriller or melodrama, teetering on the line between attempting to grip you with fear or making you cry for the lonely, confused, and disheveled Christine. To say that Kidman cries a lot in this film is an understatement. The woman tears up in damn near every scene! Before I Go to Sleep is filled with more saline rivers than Waterworld and it gets old fast. I was actually more afraid that her character would die from dehydration rather than whoever is attempting to kill her. Christine’s character might as well have been a faucet doomed for eternity to leak tears from its ducts.
I’m not crying because I’m sad, but because I’m distraught!
Before I Go to Sleep’s story is definitely intriguing, possessing a few moments of genuine shock value, but it falters in continuity and lack of depth. We find out that Christine is involved in an affair before her accident which comes into play much later in the film. However, we never understand the behavior of a certain character or why this character is so filled with rage or when this character even possessed the time to plan out the they have done. It’s hard to reveal too much for spoilers sake, but there’s no rhyme or reason for a certain character’s behavior except “just cause.”
Before I Go to Sleep is the very basic shell of a psychological thriller within the genre. The 1 hour and 36 minutes you spend with it could be far worse. You’ll get some thrills, tears, adequate performances, and enough entertainment to not regret the matinée price you spent (hopefully you spent no more than that), but don’t expect anything out of the ordinary.