Kyle J. Steenblik

Before I Go to Sleep is too timid and tiring

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Before I Go to Sleep had all the potential to be a good suspenseful thriller, but the potential was squandered.  A suspense thriller without suspense is a waste; in this case, the title becomes a taunt, or a dare.  This film was a directorial failure by Rowan Joffé, who could not set the tone appropriately, pace the action at all, and keep performances consistent with the story he was attempting to tell.

Before I Go To Sleep Film (1)

This film is about Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) who wakes up every morning having forgotten the last twenty years.  Her husband Ben (Colin Firth) patiently explains her situation, briefly, every morning before leaving for work.  He explains she had an accident ten years ago that caused this particular type of amnesia.  After Ben leaves for work Christine received a phone call from her doctor, Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) to remind her of a camera she is keeping in her wardrobe so she can keep a video diary herself.  It is with these videos she starts to suspect she is being lied to, but she can’t be sure who is telling her the truth, but she knows something is wrong, and she desperately wants to discover what happened to her.  Slowly she begins to uncover pieces of her past, as she grows unsure of whom she can trust.

Nichole Kidman and Colin Firth are fantastic performers, and they chew their way through the material in this film satisfactorily.  Many actors are able to turn in good performances with minimal direction Firth is one of those.  Kidman appears to require more direction than Firth, as she has trouble maintaining a consistent tone in her character throughout the film.  For too much of the film Christine is a perpetual victim, seemingly unable to take control of anything, and unable to find a middle ground between a timid and raving.  There were only moments I could see Kidman projecting actual strength into the character, but more often than not, she was a mobile set piece.

The inconsistent tone of the film wavered between high suspense and low mystery-thriller.  There was no relief from the oppressive silence from the long running gaps in dialogue.  The gaps could have been filled with engaging music, monologue to provide character insight; really, anything would have been preferable to nothing.  When there was action, it was rushed and truncated.  As if we were meant to feel that, everything is happening too fast to take it all in.  It was as if Rowan Joffé could not decide what type of movie he was making, and what styles he wanted to use.  It would be the equivalent of delivering a lecture while drifting between three or four different languages, and tones.

These glaring problems aside, the story, which was based on the novel of the same name by S. J. Watson, is good.  It is intriguing enough that I stubbornly waited for the story to develop on screen.  However due to the problems I previously described, the payout at the end was so frustrating it had lost all real effect.

Before I Go to Sleep is a dull suspense-thriller that fails to deliver a satisfying resolution.  A good story mismanaged, and good actors misdirected.  2.5 of 5

Before I Go To Sleep
Directed by: Rowan Joffé, Written by: Rowan Joffé, Based on: Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson, Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth
Running time 92 minutes
Rated R for some brutal violence and language

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