October 31, 2014

Before I Go to Sleep

I practiced this look every day I was married to Tom

Grade: D +
Director: Rowan Joffe
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Before I Go to Sleep aptly answers when moviegoers would be wise to watch this somnolescent thriller. Writer-director Rowan Joffe adapts S.J. Watson’s debut bestselling novel about Christine (Nicole Kidman), a woman suffering from anterograde amnesia who awakes every morning remembering nothing from her past. That includes her husband Ben (Colin Firth), whose morning ritual includes reacclimating Christine to her identity, including their 14-year marriage and the car crash that caused her condition.

Christine begins to piece together her past with the furtive help of Dr. Mike Nasch (Mark Strong), a neuropsychologist who encourages her to keep a daily video diary to record at night and rewatch every morning. He also tells Christine a different story than Ben about her state, chief among the mysteries being who is actually responsible for a brutal attack that triggered her amnesia.

Joffe’s plodding pacing and grade-school dialogue is risibly distracting. Moreover, the narrative rests on the sort of contrivances that could be instantly resolved with a phone call or characters with an ounce of common sense. Instead, the film muddles through its whodunit machinations, gradually untangling a web of deceit until the predetermined running time dictates a sudden and convenient Big Reveal™.

All of which wouldn’t be so bad if the acting was the least bit compelling. Instead, Kidman wears a perpetual blank stare (at times petrified, at others a strange calm), while Firth scowls like he just ate some bad clams. Meanwhile, Strong is given little to except be the most lunkheaded specialist in the medical community.

Perhaps the film is one big exercise in empathy, because by the end of Before I Go to Sleep you’ll be the one hoping to wake up with no memory of this film. You’ll probably get your wish.

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