Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth & Mark Strong
Amnesia is a condition that clouds the human mind, causing severe short term memory loss. It’s also a condition that plagues cinema and has spawned its own tedious sub genre – the memory-loss thriller. Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of S.J. Watson’s novel Before I Go To Sleep doesn’t exactly offer a breakthrough or an antidote for the disease, instead it feels like a case of maddening deja vu. This is essentially Memento without the brain or 50 First Dates without the heart – It’s a somewhat hollow piece of work.
Christine Lucas (Kidman)wakes up every morning remembering nothing that has happened since her twenties and her stoic teddy bear of a husband Ben (Firth) has to explain day in day out that her condition is the result of a brutal attack. This routine carries on as an unbroken loop until Dr Nasch (Strong) sticks his chiselled nose in with some information that will turn her world on its empty head. In order for Christine to cling onto her memories she must record video messages on her camera which she can then watch back the next day, a device which proves to be a way less visually stimulating version of the tattooes in Christopher Nolan’s peerless masterpiece).
This story is told with an expression that is so stone-faced that its tongue is physically incapable of pushing through its cheek. This is dominantly due to how joylessly the characters are played – Kidman appears to still be haunted by Grace of Monaco’s ghost, causing her to deliver a strangely stiff performance which, paired with Firth’s insipid delivery, provides some pretty damp viewing.
The film doesn’t give us a second to think for ourselves, firing exposition at us that is eye-wateringly on-the-nose and drowning out any iota of subtlety with a melodramatic score that dictates the mood. Even at a forgiving 95 minutes the film’s premise is stretched within an inch of its life, the story’s trajectory is bafflingly unimaginative and the so called ‘twists’ can be predicted from a mile off.
Before I Go to Sleep isn’t offensively bad, it’s just dull as dish water and half as refreshing. There’s nothing on display here that hasn’t been done infinitely better decades ago and once the credits role you’ll be able to relate to its feeble protagonist as you forget it within a matter of moments.