Before I Go to Sleep (2014)

Mystery, Thriller
Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ben Crompton
A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.
If it doesn't completely avoid thriller clichés, Before I Go to Sleep still offers a stylish, fast-paced, and well-acted diversion.
  • Clarius Entertainment Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 31 Oct 2014 Released:
  • 27 Jan 2015 DVD Release:
  • $3.2M Box office:

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Trailer:

Exciting and tense mystery about a woman with no memory.9/10
The film opens with a woman, played by Nicole Kidman, waking up in bed with a man. She seems disconcerted and confused. Entering the bathroom, she encounters photos of the two of them. Leaving the bathroom, she sees the man, played by Colin Firth, who is now sitting on the bed. He tells her that they are married but that she had an accident, and that she can no longer retain memories more than a day. Mr Firth then goes off to work, and Miss Kidman is then phoned by a man, played by Mark Strong, who says he is her doctor, helping her to get her memory back. He instructs her to find a hidden camera, which she does, and finds that she has filmed herself, to leave messages to herself.

These are the opening scenes of the film which are also in the trailers too. Thus the film looked exciting and worth going to see. Which it is. The source material for the film is a 2011 novel by SJ Watson. This debut novel may be applauded, as may the film, however both are really not that original.

It may be recalled that in 'Total Recall' (1990), a humble construction-worker, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, has a wife, played by Sharon Stone. A little bored, Mr Schwarzenegger goes on a mental holiday as a secret-agent, only to find that he really is a secret-agent. He finds this out, when escaping the bad guys, he finds a film of himself, telling himself, that very thing.

It may also be remembered that in Memento (2000), Guy Pearce also played a guy with no memory. This memorable, and remarkable, film, starts at the end, and the whole story is told in reverse as Guy Pearce, helped by Joe Pantoliano, tries to find out who killed his wife, using tattoos to keep notes.

Thus, 'Before I Go To Sleep' is not based on an original idea, but rather the concept is very familiar to those who have seen 'Total Recall' and 'Memento'. However, this does not make this a bad film, far from it. Whilst not original, the film is a little different from the other two films. They were more action movies than this one, which concentrates on the relationships.

The acting is superb throughout the film. Miss Kidman captures the emotions perfectly. We have no doubt that each day she wakes up in a strange bed with a strange man. Mr Firth too, acts well as the loving husband who has to explain everything to her, every day. Perhaps of the two, Mr Firth has perhaps the more demanding role. He has to show both exasperation and love, and he conveys his range of emotions well. Miss Kidman has perhaps a slightly easier role to play, that of the innocent woman, not understanding, or knowing who to trust. The ever reliable Mark Strong, playing the doctor, also gives a very subtle and ambiguous performance.

Rowan Joffe is the Director, and also wrote the screenplay. He has done very well to get very emotional and realistic performances from his trio of central characters, as well as from the supporting cast. Mr Joffe maintains the emotion, mystery, and tension, throughout the film. At times, you could be forgiven for thinking, that you were watching a film by that master, Mr Alfred Hitchcock. Parts of the film can easily be compared so, stylistically. However there are also many emotional kitchen-sink-style domestic scenes, all captured well.

If you like adult-themed mysteries and thrillers which deal with relationships, as well as messing with the mind, then this is the film for you.

Good film. 9/10.
Memories - like the corners of your mind...7/10
"Before I Go To Sleep" is an effective psychological thriller.

Nicole Kidman plays Christine Lucas, someone who if she saw "50 First Dates" wouldn't remember it the morning afterwards! She wakes as a forty-something 'housewife' in her suburban home every morning with Ben (Colin Firth) in bed next to her. However, she can remember little to nothing of the last twenty years.

She is being covertly helped on a pro-bono basis (with a trace of pro-boner thrown in) by UCL neuro-scientist Dr Nash (Mark Strong). Nash reveals that she ended up in this state after being severely beaten up and left for dead near a Heathrow hotel. He persuades her to maintain a video diary of the days' events and recollections, but he has to remind her where she's hidden the camera via phone every morning.

But Christine has a traumatic and terrifying past, remembered (and then immediately forgotten) in dreams, but which only very slowly starts to piece itself together during the waking hours. One character emerging from the mental mist is a long-time college friend Claire (James McAvoy's wife Anne-Marie Duff) who disappeared from her life under mysterious circumstances but is now 'found' again.

Will Christine piece together the jigsaw? What was she doing in the Heathrow hotel? Who beat her up and why? Where does Claire fit in? Can Mark Strong play anything other than a 'baddie'? So many questions, so little memory.

Produced by Ridley Scott and with Rowan Joffe ("28 Weeks Later") writing the screenplay and directing, the film is pleasingly set in and around a non-touristy London with some fine scenic shots - you can't really beat the view from the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and this nicely features in one scene. Nicole Kidman has a lot of acting to do in this role and she does it very well. Firth and Strong - two of my favourite actors - are both excellent and keep you guessing throughout. But of all of the acting roles I found Anne-Marie Duff particularly effective in the short-and-sweet role of Claire: a very powerful and touching performance.

It is tempting to describe any psycho-thriller as 'Hitchcockian', but there are moments where this film can certainly be tagged in this way. This is helped by a Bernard Herrmann-like score by Ed Shearmur, moody photography by Ben Davis and crisp editing by Melanie Oliver.

I enjoyed this film, but even with all of these positives it still felt more like a B-movie than an A-movie for reasons I can't quite sum up. In addition there were a few niggling plot points and, in my opinion, a slightly weak epilogue ending. Also note that, in a world where far too many women still face physical violence, there are flashback scenes in this film that some may find distressing, earning it its '15' UK certificate.

(Please see my other film reviews at bob-the-movie-man.com and sign up to "Follow the Fad". Thanks.)
Adrenaline Rush7/10
"Tonight as I sleep, my mind will erase everything I know today"; The simple yet satisfying plot-line of this movie as spelled out by our lead protagonist in the opening scene is enough to draw anyone into this wonderful thrill ride of a film. Such a story-line sees the aforementioned central character (played by Nicole Kidman) slowly put back together the extremely complex puzzle that is her memory of the last 14 years, lost after an 'accident' involving a mystery perpetrator.

The plot, although clearly ludicrous when heard, somehow works remarkably well when experienced on screen. This is primarily down to the breakneck pace of the movie, never allowing audience members to get bored or have enough time to ponder the numerous plot holes noticed after the final credits. Not that this matters of course, as BIGTS is a picture to be enjoyed in the moment and at surface level.

Another of the film's major assets is the brilliant performances from the central three characters. Kidman is back on form, exasperating any memory of a certain picture that occurred sometime in the previous 14 years; Firth is excellent also as Ben, with Strong matching him in equal measures on levels of sinister and downright frightening unpredictability. Not only is such fantastic acting a joy to watch, it is another factor in helping the plot-line to be accepted without question by audiences who might think twice if only they weren't having so much fun.

As entertaining as the picture is, this isn't groundbreaking original stuff here, nor is it something that is terribly deep in content. However if you want to spend 90 odd minutes utilizing only the first third of your seat, then you're in for a treat.
Well-Made Psychological Thriller7/10
I'd actually read the book before seeing this film so it was a question to ask ourselves: can we be bothered? In the event, it was worth it and I found that I was submerged in the film during the showing.

It's the sort of film that doesn't get made very much now in these days of big budgets, explosions, and cartoonish characterisations. But I'm glad it appears on the big rather than the small screen of TV because they brought in really good actors in the three leads. Particularly in the case of Nicole Kidman, she downplays her looks to come across as an ordinary woman approaching middle age, a brave choice for an actress.

The big surprise to me was Colin Firth who is way outside his normal range here and completely credible in the role. Mark Strong also is good in portraying a psychiatrist with empathy.

The film is very sombre but this is appropriate for the subject matter and really the director and cinematographer deserve a lot of credit for catching the uneasy tone of the book.

The reason I don't give it a rating higher than 7 is the unnecessary slasher scenes which could I think could have been done without so much blood and violence. Modern filmmakers should pay more attention to the work of someone like Hitchcock who suggested the gore rather than shoved your face in it. Still a mature film well worth seeing.
Interesting idea but ultimately mediocre5/10
The premise of Before I Go to Sleep is quite a good one. A woman wakes up each day with no memory beyond her early twenties; soon she begins to realise that some dark secrets are being hidden from her. It's sort of in similar territory to Christopher Nolan's early neo-noir Memento (2000), which was also a mystery/thriller about a character with a short-term memory loss condition. Like that one, here one of the interesting angles is that the central character has no idea if their friends really are friends or actually enemies. It's true that several aspects of the storyline require you to stretch your belief somewhat; however, many thrillers are similar in this respect, so this wasn't such a deal-breaker for me. The problem I essentially had is that while the idea may be pretty intriguing, ultimately the pay-off is somewhat mediocre and conventional. Piece by piece the puzzle is slowly unravelled but it doesn't end up presenting us with a picture that is very inspired or interesting and you sort of ask yourself 'is that it?'