November 6, 2014

Movie Review: Before I Go to Sleep

The evening was supposed to begin with a screening of Dear White People, but that was not to be. A broken projector found me migrating into another movie, Before I Go to Sleep. I know, I know, it is not exactly a one to one equation if you compare the two titles, but truth be told, it was still on my list to see and I did not want to waste my time. Granted, I was not entering into this situation with the highest of hopes. Memory loss films are not exactly new, and I think more tend towards Clean Slate than Memento. Also, to be honest, the trailer did not leave me with the warm and fuzzies.

In retrospect, I probably would have been better off passing on this one. I think that had I not seen it, I would not have missed anything. To take it a step further, the first time I heard about this movie was through a press release I received by email and I thought it was going to be a direct to video release. I was rather surprised to find it listed at the local theater. Seems most people had that surprise reaction considering it's terrible opening and the fact it seems to be disappearing before getting a second weekend.

Before I Go to Sleep is a thriller based on the gimmick of memory loss, more specifically, sleep wipes the mind clean and the subject begins the day anew, knowing pretty much nothing. Well, I assume she knows something, but the movie is fuzzy about the details. There is the indication she wakes up thinking she is in her early twenties with her whole life ahead of her. If that was the case, wouldn't she recognize some of these people? There is the indication that she knew these people before the incident. Then again, the plot pretty much requires that she be isolated, alone on an island and knowing nobody.

I guess I am getting ahead of myself. As the movie opens, we are introduced to Christine (Nicole Kidman). She wakes up each day a clean slate. With her is Ben (Colin Firth), her husband. They go through her accident, explaining her memory issues and the wall of pictures in the bathroom. As soon as Ben goes to work, she gets a call from Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), a specialist who has been working with her, including having her keep a video diary. She learns that she was attacked, beaten, and left for dead.

Little by little bits of her memory begin to return and the puzzle begins to take shape. Too bad it is a puzzle that is not worth putting together. Everything seems to be designed to throw you off the sent of the truth. The problem is that it feels designed, it never feels organic or truthful. Beyond that, the movie plods along never showing any signs of life. It is an odd film that never catches stride, never explains itself, and works too hard to paint both male leads as people not to trust. Also, think about the video diary, she records like 30 seconds at a time right before Ben comes home. Don't you think she would start earlier and record a lot more stuff? Seriously.

The failure to set up its rules with regards to Christine's condition means we can never gain access to her story, it keeps at a distance and does not invite any level of emotional involvement. The end result is an utter bore. It plods along and never feels genuine. It attempts to shock, but it never gets it and never earns that gotcha moment. This really is a chore and at times it was a challenge to get the whole thing in before I go to sleep. (See that? Clever! Ah, forget it)

Rowan Joffe, who adapted The American and co-wrote 28 Weeks Later, adapted the screenplay from the novel by S.J. Watson and also directs. The end result never takes flight, is really rather dull, and never finds the courage to try and do something creative with the tale. Such a waste of a talented cast. You would be better off avoiding this.

Not Recommended.

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