Enjoyable Enough Mystery Keeps You Guessing. Whether You’ll Care Afterwards Is Another Question.
Hot on the heels of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, writer/director Rowan Joffe’s pot boiling adaptation of S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep offers a psychological game of cat and mouse that keeps its audience in the dark as to exactly what’s going on, this time played out for the majority of its runtime.
Following last year’s Boxing Day release The Railway Man, Nicole Kidman is once again united with Colin Firth in this Hitchcock-lite tale of a married couple dealing with an unusual obstacle to their union. Following a mysterious ‘accident’ 13 year previous, Kidman’s Christine is an amnesiac whose brain resets overnight, each day, resulting in her repeatedly awakening in a heightened state of confused fear. Firth’s Ben appears to draw on boundless reserves of patient love in order to guide her through her lost recollections, but it soon becomes apparent that he’s an unreliable narrator who’s incredibly selective over what parts of their history together he’ll allow her to access.
Startled by a ringing phone after Ben heads to work for the day, Mark Strong’s Dr Nash throws a further spanner into this claustrophobic drama, announcing that he’s a psychologist she has been seeing in secret, and that Christine has been recording a video diary hidden in a shoebox in her closet. The material revealed on that camera begins to sow the seeds of doubt over Ben’s good intentions. Or is it the good doctor who’s playing mind games? After all, he does insist on meeting in shady car parks. Can Christine’s best friend Claire (Anne-Marie Duff) help fill in the missing details, and why is Ben concealing her existence?
As with Gone Girl, it’s entertaining enough while the mystery plays out, with the cast slightly less melodramatic in this case, though Before I Go to Sleep is probably just as dispensable, even if it displays a tad more depth. Firth comes off best, managing to juggle his stock standard good man shtick with a vague air of menace, exacerbating the puzzle, while Kidman mostly stares like a startled rabbit, delivering her lines with studied breathlessness.
Joffe’s 2010 adaptation of Brighton Rock was disappointing, having not read Before I Go to Sleep, I can’t comment on how faithful a realisation he’s delivered this time round, but there’s a sense that he’s hedging his bets, on the one hand wanting to keep the shocks tightly wound, on the other itching to fly off the handle. Somehow, he doesn’t quite hit either.
Stephen A Russell