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  Before I Go to Sleep Forgotten But Not Gone
Year: 2014
Director: Rowan Joffe
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Crompton, Adam Levy, Gabriel Strong, Flynn MacArthur, Dean-Charles Chapman
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Christine (Nicole Kidman) awakens. However, she doesn't know where she is, nor what she is doing there. She seems to have spent the night with a man who is asleep in bed beside her, but walks from into the bathroom to get her bearings where she is confronted by a collection of photographs and notes depicting her marriage to the man in the bed, along with helpful pointers as to his identity: her husband Ben (Colin Firth). When she goes back into the bedroom she sees him sitting on the edge of the bed, and he begins to explain about her condition which forces her to lose her memory every time she goes to sleep at the end of the day, thereby making it necessary for him to remind her every morning. But how would she know?

Before I Go to Sleep was a bestselling novel by S.J. Watson so as was the case with many a popular book, the movie rights were sold and before they knew where they were a film had resulted, although that did not do anything like as well as the source. Not that it was a complete flop as there were sufficient fans of the book interested enough to investigate what one of their favourite reads of recent years would look like with movie stars acting out the plot, yet the faint disappointment that followed it was difficult to ignore. On watching it, it really wasn't that bad, except what was plausible on the page in Watson's words was far more difficult to accept on the screen since it was not able to answer every question.

The main one being, how exactly did all this end up the way it did, that was, how did this arrangement begin? Once you were aware of all the twists, you did tend to think back and wonder, how was Christine persuaded of that? For that matter, how was everyone else in her life persuaded of it - were there no inquiries those years ago when this all began? Not to expose the whole narrative, it did grow more artificial the further it progressed and you grew to understand the bigger picture, though presumably the filmmakers would readily inform you there is indeed a form of amnesia that makes the victim forget their lives from one day to the next, actually there were forms where the short term memory was all they had, as documented in various popular science case history books and television documentaries.

With that rock solid foundation, the possibilities were there to spiral off into thriller territory, much as Christopher Nolan had with Memento, a better thought of work that was often mentioned in comparison with Before I Go to Sleep, sharing the conundrum of who to trust when you are at the mercy of those far more aware than you are. If you knew your movies, you would accept something rum was afoot, though precisely what that was remained the basis for the mystery, and Christine finds herself stuck between two dominant male personalities, as if she was the centre of a love triangle, though love was not the first thing that sprang to mind with either Ben or the other man she meets when her husband is out, Dr Nasch, played by Mark Strong, an actor not aversed to essaying the villain in his films. But is he doing that here? Nasch does appear to know plenty about her.

Though he insists Christine keep their meetings a secret from Ben, he has given her a camera where she may keep a video diary to act as a memory jogger, preventing this getting too repetitive as we don't have to sit through the lead character's reminders every ten minutes. It is Nasch who places the seeds of doubt in her mind as to how much she really knows, which raises the question if he really is a psychiatrist who is genuinely concerned for Christine's wellbeing, how come he doesn't swoop in and take her away from all this? There is an answer to that, but it isn't a particularly convincing one, so there comes a point here that you just sit back and recognise though this on the surface is a classy thriller with a couple of big stars to carry it the fact remained at heart it was a silly potboiler hinging on an amusing contrivance. Once you had done that, you were welcome to enjoy the twists and turns and have a pretty good time being fooled by the movie, for all its sombre tone and appearance, it was more a bit of fun than it was a serious, searching suspense drama. Music by Ed Shearmur.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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