Forty-year-old Christine Lucas wakes up in bed with a man she does not know, in an unfamiliar house. The man explains that he is her husband, Ben, and that she suffered brain damage from a car accident ten years earlier. Christine wakes up every morning with no memory of her life from her early twenties onwards. Christine receives treatment from Dr. Nasch, a neurologist at a local hospital who provides her a camera to record her thoughts and progress each day, and calls her every morning to remind her to watch the video in the camera. Soon, she starts to discover the truth around her. Written by
Just after Christine wakes from a nightmare, we hear Dr.Nasch on the phone explaining he's a neuropsychologist at University College, London; but in the next scene she sees his name badge, which shows he works at Westland Psychiatric Hospital. See more »
Who are you?
I'm your husband... Ben.
We got married in 1999. That was 14 years ago. Christine, you're 40.
[hands her her clothes]
You had an accident. It was a bad accident. You had head injuries. And you have problems remembering things.
What things? What...?
Everything. You store up information for a day, and when you wake up in the morning, it's all gone. You're back to your early 20s. You'll be okay. Just... trust me.
See more »
An intriguing if not entirely effective meditation on love, memory and identity.
In a very real way, our memories are who we are - our identities as individuals depend in an almost terrifying way upon our ability to remember what we do (and what we've done), why we do it, and whom we love. That's why the notion of memory-making (and losing) looms so very large in the art we create. In the cinematic realm alone, characters whose memories are sorely compromised have starred in thrillers (Memento), romantic comedies (50 First Dates) and weepies (The Notebook). Before I Go To Sleep, based on the novel by S.J. Watson, is a chilling if not entirely effective blend of family drama and thriller, trading on the heartache and horror that comes with losing oneself every single day.
Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every morning with no memory of the last fifteen years of her life. Ben (Colin Firth), the stranger who shares her life and bed, informs her that he is her husband and that she lost her ability to make new memories after a bad car accident several years ago. Any attempt to forge lasting memories seems futile - and yet, Christine tries. She receives a phone call from Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), a neurologist who assures her that they've been working to improve her condition. He reminds her that she's been keeping a video diary every day: one that, upon review, suggests that Ben is not telling her the whole truth about their shared life and history.
It's to writer-director Rowan Joffe's credit that he mostly manages to make a very personal - and inevitably repetitive - journey of discovery both cinematic and chilling. As Christine awakes each day with her memory reset, Joffe finds inventive and intriguing ways to ramp up the spinetingling alienation she feels from her own life and husband. He captures Christine's terror, doubt and paranoia in the shuddery footage she takes of herself while hidden away in the bathroom from a husband she doesn't recognise. As the wheels within the narrative spin and turn, Joffe's camera makes villains and heroes out of everybody: Ben, in particular, shifts from one to the other on an almost daily basis, as Christine doubts and then trusts the love this man must have for her to stay by her side for so many years.
Unfortunately, Joffe can't quite sustain the tension throughout - the film sags noticeably in parts, as Christine flounders miserably between very few choices. There are many twists, as she uncovers people and secrets in her past that will inevitably disappear from her grasp within a day, including a final doozy of a revelation. But Joffe winds up wasting much of this tension and intrigue with an oddly definitive ending. In a film filled with questions, doubts and uncertainties, it feels completely out of place and emotionally untrue.
Joffe's cast, at least, is unreservedly excellent. Kidman delivers her most fascinating performance in ages, one that's equal parts vulnerable and strong. Her Christine is very much a victim of her circumstances - and possibly her husband - but Kidman skilfully imbues her with a steely determination to reclaim her life and identity against very poor odds. Firth, too, is fantastic, shading both light and darkness into his trademark charm - enough to make us believe that he's the kind of man who could love and/or betray Christine with all of his heart.
It's a shame, then, that the final frames of the film don't live up to its promise or potential. Joffe has hit upon something truly unnerving with his premise: Christine's condition provides the ideal backdrop for either the perfect crime, or a love story for the ages. Before I Go To Sleep quite effectively teeters between the two extremes, as does Christine, but ultimately fails to follow through when the true depths of its darkness are revealed.
22 of 30 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?