I love a good thriller. I love a good mystery. I love to be scared– at the movies. I love Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Together? Heaven! Or hell? I went hoping for the former, and left feeling like I’d fallen from a great height. Kidman and Firth co-star here in the mystery thriller BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP based on the novel by S.J. Watson about a woman named Christine (Kidman)who wakes up every morning with no memory of the man she’s sleeping next to, what happened the day before, or the past ten or so years! Each morning, the man–her husband (Colin Firth) fills in the details of her past and leaves for work, as she sets about trying to absorb it all. But as soon as she falls asleep that night, everything she has accumulated during that day– will be erased, and she will start all over again the next morning, to begin that steep climb up the slippery slope of her damaged memory and try to assemble the pieces of her shattered life.
This is a compelling premise for an audience and one we’ve seen before– remember that great film MEMENTO (2000) starring Guy Pearce? BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP will not make you forget it. Here, things begin promisingly enough. Kidman and Firth, gifted actors convey volumes by what they say– and don’t say. Christine is told by her husband that she has suffered a brain injury as a result of a terrible accident, which she cannot remember. Kidman moves through her day as though sleepwalking, carefully picking her way through the clues of her past life. Her husband has mounted a collage of photos on the bathroom wall to help her– shots of their wedding, and assorted happy images from their past, as she tries to piece together the puzzle.
The film directed by Rowan Joffe (28 WEEKS LATER, THE AMERICAN) has a gray, muffled quality. The trees are bare, the weather cold and bleak, the conversations spare. The house they live in–like Christine herself–has an almost blank facade, but for a few small windows, most of them above eye level; it’s significant. Christine has only a narrow window of time each day before she forgets it all. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that the script finds clever ways to lead us through the maze of her past, and fill in some of the blanks. Christine has flashes of dreams– but what do they mean? She has a way of recording what she learns each day, in order to accumulate and hang onto that information. On the soundtrack the Supremes’ “You keep me hangin’ on.” Who does? And what really happened to her?
An assortment of bad guys and gals present themselves, with some clever editing to throw suspicion everywhere. Then, in the penultimate moments– I gasped out loud! Something I didn’t see coming LOVE THAT! I couldn’t wait for the big thrill of a killer denouement. But instead, the movie starts to slide downhill, slowly at first, then picking up speed–me digging in my heels, hoping against hope that it couldn’t just end like this! Too simple for the raft of innuendo and craft brought to bear on these proceedings! The final explanations don’t hold up– only the look on Kidman’s face conveying infinitely more than what this limited script apparently calls for. No way! Alas, the inevitable crash into an obvious, one note, conclusion, compounded by the mud of a mawkish ending–it just made made me want to forget it all– and go back to the beginning.