Before I Go To Sleep is a lovely and a very accurate name for a film that puts you to sleep in under 15 minutes.
Based on the novel of the same name by S.J. Watson and directed by Rowan Joffe, Before I Go To Sleep is a story of a 40-year old woman named Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) who, due to a brain trauma caused allegedly by a car accident, wakes up every morning with no memory of her life past her early 20s. Day after day, her husband Ben (Colin Firth) has to explain to her what has happened. Apparently, it’s been going on like this for over 14 years. Ouch!
It doesn’t take Christine long to learn that there’s more going on than just a weird case of amnesia. Soon after Ben leaves for work, she gets a call from Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), a neurologist from a local hospital, claiming that she is undergoing some kind of treatment that she keeps secret from her husband. He tells her where she can find a camera which she uses as a video diary to record the events of each day to keep track of them. Dr. Nasch also tells Christine that it wasn’t a car accident but an assault that caused her trauma, and that Ben shouldn’t be trusted, although neither of them know why, exactly.
With the help of Dr. Nasch and this video diary, Christine tries to piece together the last 14 years of her life, uncovering one not so dark secret after another, until ultimately, she learns that ‘Ben’ isn’t really Ben. The real Ben divorced her years ago and her ‘Ben’ is really Mike, Christine’s lover from 14 years ago who actually attacked her, beating her up to near death and then sticking around because of his true and never ending love (Ha!).
The ending is fast and sweet – Ben/Mike is arrested and Christine reunites with her real Ben and their son who Ben/Mike claimed being dead.
Wow, it sounded almost interesting.
Now, imagine 50 First Dates but without any fun, and lasting for about 10 hours, or so it felt. Despite the promised mystery, the reveals are obvious and expected, making the audience wait for something bigger around every corner. Naturally, it never came.
A part of me expected Before I Go To Sleep to be similar to The Others, which was, frankly, one of Kidman’s best films ever. It was, however, a waste of both hers and Firth’s acting talents, as well as an insult to human logic.
First of all, if it only took Christine a few weeks to find out the whole truth about herself and her past and everything, what the hell was she doing for the previous 6 or so years after the real Ben dumped her? Reading the same chapter of the same book? And speaking of Ben – he’s an asshole! Okay, his wife wasn’t quite herself and maybe their son needed a more stable environment but he left the confused woman who couldn’t really take care of herself all alone and, what, forgot about her?! Just like that?! It’s was like he INVITED Mike to take advantage of Christine. I almost can’t blame the guy!
In other words, screwed up timeline and Texas-sized plot holes ruined everything. Kudos to Firth being deliciously creepy but that’s about it, sadly. There’s a lot of wasted potential going on, making it look like the director was holding back, not daring to push the limits, which he absolutely should have done.
The other issue that kept bugging me during the film was the complete lack of any kind of stakes for Christine. If we forget for a moment that Mike was the one responsible for her trauma, and a psycho on top of that, she was living a good life. Understandably, it probably sucked to wake up with a blank page for a memory but, ultimately, she was living in comfort with someone who took good care of her. At least she wasn’t institutionalized or something. So…. What would happen if she didn’t learn the truth? Without a clear answer to this question, the rest of the film is sort of pointless.
Before I Go To Sleep spends a lot of time building up for something we never see, the secrets being revealed almost in passing. The very best moment, I have to admit, happens somewhere in the middle when Christine thinks that Dr. Nasch is THE Mike, which makes the audience question EVERYTHING. Is he the nutjob that did this to her? Is he someone hired by ‘Ben’ to keep an eye on her? Or maybe it’s her brain making it all up, Inception style?
The moment we learn that ‘Ben’ isn’t Ben…. Well, it’s the end of everything. And, frankly, the story should’ve ended there. Going for the classic Hollywood happy ending was what killed it entirely. The soppy last moments with a promise of a happily ever after turned this joke of a thriller into an even bigger joke of a drama.
Verdict – highly recommended to everyone suffering from insomnia. It’s guaranteed to out you to sleep in no time. Make sure to choose a movie theater with comfy chairs! Now, if only I could forget watching it…