Rowan Joffe tries his director’s hat at a psychological thriller with “Before I Go to Sleep,” and he half-heartedly hits the mark. The film at first glance seems as if it could have been stripped right from the Lifetime movie network channel. What saves this movie from totally treading down that line is an impressive ensemble cast and production value coupled with a few strong performances from the cast. If you’re looking for an original take on amnesia and lost memories then you can look elsewhere. But what this movie does provide is a decent look into the thought process of a disillusioned woman with an impaired memory.
The plot is actually very interesting and definitely grabs you by the collar as you stumble through the first act of the film. Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) has lost all of her memory after being brutally attacked by an unknown assailant. During the attack she suffered very intensive head trauma which results in a faltering memory that has her forgetting each day’s activities. Christine constantly has to keep documentation of her life via video camera as she puts the pieces of her attack together. Kidman’s performance is outstanding and keeps the film from descending into straight-to-video release territory by practically turning her chronological clock back 20 years prior to the assault.
Other actors’ performances, accompanied with a dodgy script, keep this film from reaching its full potential. Some lines seem as if they are taken straight from a high school play. The intensity of the dialogue in certain scenes outweighs the atmosphere of the situation, thus causing a disconnect that detracts from the immersion and authenticity of various scenes.
Unnecessary force has been embedded into the movie just to give the impression that it contains some action. Mike (Colin Firth), Kidman’s husband in the movie, is a carbon copy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — this is where the continuity and script become a problem. Christine’s family and close friends don’t care for her enough to actually inquire about her husband? Despite her being sent to a mental hospital, it isn’t far-fetched to assume she has somebody in her corner who is worried about her. Discrepancies like that hurt the movie by insulting the audience’s intelligence.
Another hole the film unfortunately falls into is having an unconvincing and hackneyed soundtrack. These tracks are taken directly from Disney Channel and ABC Family dramas. I don’t need to be hounded by ridiculous background music that often incorporates loud snares and trope mystery music. It’s a mistake to try to craft your own identity as a film with a good plot and then bog that down with an unimpressive score that seldom matches the scene. Oftentimes, I would be invested in a scene, my hair on edge, and I would suddenly get pulled out of the film when the music debuted.
“Before I Go to Sleep” falls victim to many mistakes that other films of its genre also try to avoid. Covering psychological topics needs a certain quality of execution to deliver an authentic feel. The script holds your hand for too long and gives you too many facts and soon enough you feel as though you have been lectured. But the basic premise of the movie is interesting and some of the main cast do a great job at delivering a semi-believable experience. It’s a film that casual movie-goers will love, but any film connoisseur, or someone who’s actually seen amazing psychological thrillers, will definitely tear apart.
Rating: 3 stars