BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP nearly put me to sleep

 

 

Before I Go To Sleep (dir. Rowan Joffe)
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP begins with a moment that would shock anyone. Christine (Nicole Kidman) awakes in a strange bed, in a stranger’s embrace, completely unaware of where she is. She stumbles into the adjoining bathroom and, after composing herself, peers out to see who this man is. Mike (the dreamy Colin Firth) looks prepared for her reaction and calmly explains to her the situation. Christine was in an accident years ago and cannot form new memories. Every morning she wakes up with no idea who she is or where she is. Mike is her husband and caretaker, who every morning reintroduces her to the life they have built together. Christine relaxes slightly, mostly due to Mike’s soothing demeanor and by seeing all of the work he does on a daily basis to keep her happy. Though she is scared, she seems to know that Mike is telling the truth and attempts to move forward with her day. Just as Christine is adjusting to the house, shortly after Mike leaves for work, the phone rings and the plot begins to attempt to get interesting. Christine has been seeing a psychologist, Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) who is helping her get her memory back and remember how she lost her memories.
With no working memory and two men who each have opposing plans for Christine the film establishes that there are plenty of opportunities for scares. Whom should Christine trust? And what are their motives? In practice, however, the film ends up being an overly emotional film which focuses an astonishing amount of time on watching Christine cry.
Christine is often upset. After realizing the horrors that she has been through and what impact her memory issues have on her relationships Christine spends a lot of time crying. It is completely understandable that she is scared and does not know who to trust. Kidman and Firth’s excellent performances allow us to see their frustration and confusion on a daily basis. This is why it is so tedious to spend so much of the running time hammering home the fact that Christine is so scared. Watching her cry daily about the loss of her intended life and feel bad about Mike’s personal sacrifices just makes the plot slow to a crawl. It takes nearly an hour for the camera to focus on anything but Christine crying. When it finally decides to tell a story, the film gets pretty good.
The end of the film is a face-paced thriller, with both Christine and her attacker being smart and logical. As all of the elements come together it is clear that director Rowan Joffee (who also wrote 28 WEEKS LATER) can handle the action in the film. This only makes it that more confounding that the film was so boring for so long.
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is not a bad film, but I have trouble thinking of whom the intended audience is. For those who would like the drama and the focus on Christine’s loss it may be too violent in the end. And for those who are expecting the horror and action found in the film’s third act, the bulk of the film it too weepy and melodramatic.

Deirdre Crimmins

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Deirdre (Dede) lives in Chicago (via Boston and Cleveland) with two black cats. She writes for Film Thrills, High Def Digest, The Brattle Theater, Rue Morgue Magazine, Birth.Movies.Death., and anyone else who will let her drone on about genre film. She wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero and is always hopeful that Hollywood will get its head out of its ass.

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