Before I Go To Sleep is a psychological thriller film starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong. It is written and directed by Rowan Joffé based on the bestseller debut novel by S.J. Watson. The story revolves around Christine Lucas (Kidman) who suffers an 'atypical psychogenic amnesia', a type of memory disorder where she completely loses her autobiographical memory as a result of a mysterious accident. Any impression of her day's turn of event is wiped off as she sleeps and restarts from null the following day when she wakes up.
Christine watching her recording on the video camera
Rowan Joffé's plot shares a common attribute of typical thriller films based on amnesia, in that the protagonist (as well as the film viewers) cannot make out who to trust between friends and/or enemies. In this film, the suspicion lies between Christine's husband Ben (Firth) and Christine's neuropsychologist Dr. Nash (Strong). The only tangible detail of Christine's immediate life episode is a video diary which Christine records every night before she goes to sleep. Well and good, except that the main plan of the story lacks systematic strategy to sustain a thrill. Many a conflict that arise from information that Christine gathered from Ben, Dr. Nash, and her long-lost friend Claire (Anne-Marie Duff) are primitively unravalled via story-telling device. The subplot on Christine and Dr. Nash's burgeoning romance is undeveloped so that the already puzzled audience ends up more confused. What is the logic behind a doctor-patient counselling scene shots in a bedim carpark if not to create a conventional thriller tension? But tension it is not and rather a spiral of doubt.
Dr. Nash and Christine in one of their covert sessions
So the characters are undeveloped, too, but this is understandable with the film's cyclical story. Ben and Dr. Nash reintroduce themselves everyday to a frightened and disorientated Christine. The tone is dull to add up to the mysterious bearing of both characters which have been portrayed convincingly. And without a second thought, Nicole Kidman plays the character of a baffled amnesiac with her usual conviction.
Tension builds with flashback structures, and at one point flashback of her attacker's name was used to create a doubt in Christine's own sanity. A pity that the tension is not sustained.
A plot twist on Ben's emotional state finally comes to the most awaited and overdue kicks of a thriller film. Suddenly, the film music gets into the psyche as it provokes histrionic response from the camera movement. Yet the dropping hints in Christine's flashbacks backfire and turn the scene into a conventional story telling.
Before I Go To Sleep is no doubt a star-driven film. What's frustrating at the end is that no one knows if the memory lapse is resolved. A hint that it is, at the last scene, is suggested in the drama. But many questions are remained unanswered.
Before I Go To Sleep is rated M and will be showing on cinemas near you starting 16th October. Running time is 92 mins.