before-i-go-to-sleep-poster2014

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Directed by: Rowan Joffe 

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff

In just about every way, Before I Go To Sleep is a story of déjà vu. Following a serious accident, Nicole Kidman’s Christine Lucas has an amnesia-esque condition (the film gives it a long-winded name to sound smart), which causes her to forget almost everything she knows every night as she sleeps, waking up oblivious to much of her life. The film then follows her as she tries to find out what really happened to her, naturally taking in a number of twists along the way.

If ‘amnesia causes revelation that life is not what it seems’ is a familiar premise, it’s because that was more or less the idea behind 2011 Neeson-actioner Unknown (though granted this is based on the eponymous 2011 bestselling novel). The ‘haven’t we been here before’ feeling extends to almost every second of the run time. Kidman’s character waking up and replaying the same events over and over again, drives home the endless cycle of confusion, but it also becomes increasingly monotonous. This dynamic isn’t dramatically altered until later on, and even then, there are other problems to contend with.

One of which is the horrible, horrible script that the film has to contend with. Whether the prose was as stilted as the action here is hard to say, but the dialogue is far too expository – the classic ‘go into far too much detail when speaking to inform the audience’ trick is employed en masse – and there’s cliché after cliché thrown in, with a dash of inexplicable plotting heaped on top. In a nutshell, the film takes what was an interesting premise, and runs backwards a mile.

When the twists arrive, they don’t really add up, and the most important revelation serves no purpose other than to create a suspenseful scene as Christine discovers the truth.

While it’s a positive that Firth and Mark Strong eventually play very much against type – Firth becoming the antagonist and Strong the secondary protagonist – it also means that the strongest emotional scenes in the film are meaningless. Firth adds genuine gravitas to these scenes, so to see them become a fallacy is slightly frustrating.

Before I Go To Sleep struggles to live up to its concept, and instead crumbles under its weak script and bizarre plotting – a story of unfulfilled promise. Déjà vu indeed.

★★