“Before I Go To Sleep” is an effective psychological thriller.
Nicole Kidman plays Christine Lucas, someone who if she saw “50 First Dates” wouldn’t remember it the morning afterwards! She wakes as a forty-something ‘housewife’ in her suburban home every morning with Ben (Colin Firth) in bed next to her. However, she can remember little to nothing of the last twenty years.
She is being covertly helped on a pro-bono basis (with a trace of pro-boner thrown in) by UCL neuro-scientist Dr Nash (Mark Strong). Nash reveals that she ended up in this state after being severely beaten up and left for dead near a Heathrow hotel. He persuades her to maintain a video diary of the days’ events and recollections, but he has to remind her where she’s hidden the camera via phone every morning.
But Christine has a traumatic and terrifying past, remembered (and then immediately forgotten) in dreams, but which only very slowly starts to piece itself together during the waking hours. One character emerging from the mental mist is a long-time college friend Claire (James McAvoy’s wife Anne-Marie Duff) who disappeared from her life under mysterious circumstances but is now ‘found’ again.
Will Christine piece together the jigsaw? What was she doing in the Heathrow hotel? Who beat her up and why? Where does Claire fit in? Can Mark Strong play anything other than a ‘baddie’? So many questions, so little memory.
Produced by Ridley Scott and with Rowan Joffe (“28 Weeks Later”) writing the screenplay and directing, the film is pleasingly set in and around a non-touristy London with some fine scenic shots – you can’t really beat the view from the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and this nicely features in one scene. Nicole Kidman has a lot of acting to do in this role and she does it very well. Firth and Strong – two of my favourite actors – are both excellent and keep you guessing throughout. But of all of the acting roles I found Anne-Marie Duff particularly effective in the short-and-sweet role of Claire: a very powerful and touching performance.
It is tempting to describe any psycho-thriller as ‘Hitchcockian’, but there are moments where this film can certainly be tagged in this way. This is helped by a Bernard Herrmann-like score by Ed Shearmur, moody photography by Ben Davis and crisp editing by Melanie Oliver.
I enjoyed this film, but even with all of these positives it still felt more like a B-movie than an A-movie for reasons I can’t quite sum up. In addition there were a few niggling plot points and, in my opinion, a slightly weak epilogue ending. Also note that, in a world where far too many women still face physical violence, there are flashback scenes in this film that some may find distressing, earning it its ’15’ UK certificate.
Fad Rating: FFFf.