The Watchers

The Watchers

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Review: Before I Go To Sleep (UK Cert: 15)

Having sustained a head injury after a brutal attack, Christine (Nicole Kidman) is now an amnesiac. The minute she goes to sleep, she forgets everything, waking up and thinking she’s still in her twenties. Christine has two men in her life, her husband Ben (Colin Firth), who tries to care for her, and Dr Mike Nash (Mark Strong), who is helping her remember what happened on the night she was attacked. Soon Christine begins to suspect that both men have been lying.

Director Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of S.J. Watson’s bestselling novel, Before I Go To Sleep, is a tough film to review for anyone wanting to go and watch it. While not wanting to spoil anything, the film has one hell of a whole of Africa-sized flaw. Having watched the trailer, I had an inkling who the villain was here, the Who in the Whodunnit. Ten minutes into Before I Go To Sleep, and the only way it could be more obvious who the bad guy is if they had a neon sign flashing above their head, which reads, “I did it!”

As I’ve not read the book, I can’t comment on whether this is an issue with the source material, but because of a certain actor’s dubious behaviour, and the fact that – as far as mysteries go – they’re playing a by-the-numbers staple of the genre, it’s not long before you’ve already worked out most of what’s happening.

This is a real shame, as otherwise Before I Go To Sleep is a reasonably well made, occasionally even tense thriller. While none of the performances are career best, everybody does a solid enough job, especially Kidman who specialises in playing fractured women. Here she’s wide-eyed, her voice barely above a whisper, childlike in her curiosity and reaction to discovering the type of person she is. Even the cinematography makes you wonder whether Christine is going mad, if there’s any mystery here at all, Ben Davis shooting every scene with muted colours, external shots being bizarrely empty, with scarcely anyone around.

The trouble with Before I Go To Sleep is that unless you think Scooby Doo is the crowning glory of crime thrillers, you’re unlikely to be surprised at the film’s many twists and pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you moments, which just about kills most of the tension that Joffe has tried hard to craft here. Throughout the film I was hoping I was wrong, that there would be this bulldozer of a twist that turned things on its head and put a line through what I thought I knew; tragically, this never happens. Joffe tries to come up with a thriller worthy of Hitchcock, but too often the script for Before I Go To Sleep (penned by Joffe) feels like a TV movie on a never-heard-of digital channel.

2 out of 5


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