Directed by: Rowan Joffe
Written by: Rowan Joffe, based on the novel by S.J. Watson
When Christine wakes up, she finds herself in bed with a stranger and living in a body that seems to have preternaturally aged. The stranger introduces himself as Ben, her husband of 14 years. After he leaves, a phone call from a man identifying himself as Dr. Nasch prompts her to search the wardrobe for a camera. She finds a video of herself explaining her predicament
Christine (Nicole Kidman) has a rare form of amnesia due to an accident-induced brain injury. Every night, when she falls asleep, her memories from the past 14 or 15 years dissolve. She wakes up believing she’s a single woman in her early 20s when, in fact, she is 40 and married to chemistry professor Ben Lucas (Colin Firth). Ben, who seems tender and loving, is suddenly full of frustrated rage when she pushes him to explore the past. This seems understandable, given all they have been through, but Christine doubts that she can trust him.
She also meets Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong). He explains that he is a neurologist from a local hospital who has been helping her — away from the hospital — without Ben’s knowledge. He seems kind and supportive, but the situation is odd.
As Christine struggles to reclaim her memories of other important people in her life and of the accident that caused her terrifying condition, she wonders which of these men she can trust.
The intriguing premise of this film invites comparisons to Memento. But this is misleading; Before I Go to Sleep lacks the unique narrative structure and brilliance of Memento. It is basically a conventional thriller and, as such, it accomplishes its purpose. It is suspenseful and well paced, and the mystery is skillfully unveiled, bit by bit, in a way that keeps you guessing. The performances are also excellent. Kidman really shines here. There is a raw quality to her fear, longing, fierce grief, and terror.
All these elements combine to create a solid thriller. Unfortunately, this is undermined a bit by an implausible and treacly ending.
If this is the type of movie that intrigues you, I recommend that, despite the poor reviews, you give it a chance. Keep your expectations in check. This is not groundbreaking cinema — it is not Memento. However, it offers an intriguing premise, skillful pacing, and excellent performances. For the mystery and thriller aficionado, it provides solid entertainment. And Kidman’s work alone is worth your time.