Before I Go to Sleep
dir-scr Rowan Joffe
prd Ridley Scott, Mark Gill, Avi Lerner, Liza Marshall, Matthew O'Toole
with Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff, Adam Levy, Dean-Charles Chapman, Jing Lusi, Llewella Gideon, Charlie Gardner, Rosie MacPherson, Flynn MacArthur, Chris Cowlin
release UK 5.Sep.14, US 31.Oct.14
14/UK StudioCanal 1h32
Before I Go to Sleep
Who are you, who am I? Strong and Kidman

kidman firth duff
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Before I Go to Sleep Like a cross between Memento and 50 First Dates, this thriller plays with ideas of memory and amnesia as a woman tries to piece together the threads of her life without knowing who or what to trust. This makes it solidly engaging, even if the plot tends to drift into heightened melodrama. But the subtler emotional moments work much better.

Every morning when she wakes up, Christine (Kidman) once again thinks she's 23. Her husband Ben (Firth) patiently explains who he is and that she's actually 40. And when he leaves for work Dr Nash (Strong) phones to help her find her memories. But this plants seeds of doubt in Christine's mind about both men, especially since they're clearly hiding something from her. Finally she gets in touch with her friend Claire (Duff), and day-to-day clues help get her to the point where she can confront the gap between her memory and this reality.

The idea is clever enough to hold the attention, adding little moments of deep feeling along with the unsettling creepiness. Kidman's alert eyes and immobile face add to the atmosphere, as she questions whether she's reaching the right conclusions and wonders who she can trust, especially since Firth and Strong both play their roles in ways that keep us guessing. For Christine, every day is a different path, and we have a lot more fun sifting through the information than she does.

Director Joffe keeps the film tightly centred on Kidman, sometimes indulging in strained red herrings to obscure information we shouldn't know but do. This manipulative approach continually tells us how we should be feeling, veering suddenly from soaring happiness to creeping fear. The explosions of violence are sudden and shocking, and the moments of warmth are almost overwhelmingly sentimental.

In other words, Joffe doesn't quite trust the audience to navigate this story on their own. The film is skilfully shot and edited, and the cast does a great job wrong-footing us at every point, but only the scenes with the terrific Duff offer any hope, because she's the only person who isn't surrounded by a cloud of suspicion. Even so, it's obvious that even this intriguing texture is merely another of Joffe's false clues. So instead of getting involved, we merely wait for him to resolve things.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Jun.14

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