‘Before I Go to Sleep’ beautifully and sometimes, darkly illuminates how tightly wound thrillers can be and also what a supreme actress Nicole Kidman is. This movie may have a few story flaws that take some swallowing to believe but apart from those slight misdemeanors, this second feature for Rowan Joffe lays on a suitably thick layer of tension and mystery.
Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) had an accident leaving her waking up each day forgetting the day and many days before. This amnesia makes her forget her husband Ben (Colin Firth) who tries every day to make her remember their marriage. It’s not long until Christine gets a phone call from one Dr. Nash (Mark Strong) leading her to question details about her past through camera video documentation. It’s a plot that I can’t go into anymore than that for fear of spoiling unfolding mysteries and drama.
Of course if you’ve seen the film or read the novel it’s based off then you’ll know how the story plays out and hopefully you’d agree that on the whole this film succeeds in building impending tense problems for Kidman’s lead role. I think this film’s strongest quality is the dark brooding atmosphere, even in the beauty of London surroundings you gain that unnerving sixth sense of danger and through the washed out palette of each frame. There’s some wonderful cinematography from the well set up shots of a Hitchcockian pier, the oppressive yellow dankness of a car park and the white seemingly fresh and innocent home Christine resides in.
It’s all captured through steady almost serene like camera movements with shots lasting for a while or gentile tracks leading you to feel safe, which of course trickles over into that nasty false sense of security for us to share alongside Christine. It’s a greatly shot thriller that really enforces the job of constructing story and character enough to let the rest of the film bubble and boil into the necessary department of suspense and fear. The earlier calm camera motions make the bursts of pacy editing and scary low angles all the more worrying and brutal, which in the case of this film and some actions can definitely be.
There’s a few minor issues in plot that may thread through the book, I don’t know, but the main factor of Christine’s amnesia and her predicament of what or who to believe can result in some scoff moments, such as how the incident leading her to get this memory blackout was never seen. A handy iron crops up to save the day that annoyed me a bit because of it’s helpful position and timely appearance. The end also is, well nice and all but it could have been cool to have some glimmer of a possible twist before the credits came on.
Nicole Kidman really is fantastic as this tormented, grieving, lost and afraid wife trying to piece her own life and past together. She can really sell the emotional side of acting and when she cries you really believe this Christine is real and crying too. It all helps that she provides enough but not too many blank stares to hit home her amnesiac state. Mark Strong plays a good if not greatly fascinating part, he has a moment to shine when a possible revelation comes to light and makes us question what the bejesus is going on. Colin Firth surprised me as I’ve grown tired of Firth being Firth, here he of course has to play a more mysterious character as everyone is a mystery to Christine and I liked where his character comes from and goes to also. Firth makes it spark and fly with dramatic welly.
When the film racks up in tension the camera and music tallies up with that switch in style which makes for a darker and more spine chilling thriller which is all good with me, I can overlook thriller movie cliches and story weaknesses, as there’s some strong acting involved and impressively conjured psychological drama too. Not taut and logical in all places but it’s tense and interesting and a neat little thriller.