BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP. Thriller for… thriller enthusiasts
Their first attempt didn’t go well. In The Railway Man, the abundance of shed tears drowned the script, prompting the director to likely evacuate as the first casualty. It wasn’t a good film; these weren’t good roles. This time, the duo steps on board Before I Go to Sleep – a thriller with ambitions beyond just scaring us. The film’s concept supports this: director Rowan Joffe immerses us in the mind of Christine (Nicole Kidman), suffering from memory loss. Every morning, she wakes up with no recollection of her past. Throughout the day, she gathers information about herself, her family, and her surroundings. She doesn’t know whom to trust or who presents her with the true version of events, as she has been suffering from this condition since an accident/attack by an unknown assailant.
Christine’s husband, Ben (Colin Firth), refers to the unfortunate incident. He is a man whose eyes always reflect sadness and uncertainty. It’s unclear whether he hides so much from his wife to protect himself or her. On the other side, there’s Dr. Nash (Mark Strong) – secretly examining Christine’s memory without Ben’s knowledge. Every morning, he calls her, having previously given her a small camera on which the protagonist records videos, documenting each day. The device’s hard drive has become her memory – the only relatively reliable source of information. Joffe, much like Christopher Nolan in Memento, exploits the phenomenon of short-term memory. Before I Go to Sleep is often recreative in this regard, not offering a new perspective. It only extends the time during which the protagonist is aware of her actions. Additionally, it relies on the same props and uses montage in a similar manner.
Rowan Joffe plays with narration, attempting to make solving the mystery as difficult as possible. He introduces repetitions and temporal ellipses, as well as entire segments of flashbacks, with the main character occasionally experiencing sudden revelations. Short, contextless scenes from the past manifest themselves to her. The director holds all the puzzle pieces in a bag and tosses new elements at us continually. However, it seems that Joffe is not overly concerned about where all of this is heading. He is primarily interested in playing with the form of the narrative and chronology – the characters are constantly in the background. Before I Go to Sleep resembles a workshop exercise by a novice director – the dramatic weight is not particularly significant. The characters are primarily pawns that the director shifts in subsequent scenes and sequences to propel the plot forward. The referenced family tragedy is merely a pretext for narrative play. It is challenging to engage in this story, and Before I Go to Sleep is watched with a haunting sense of indifference.
Joffe navigates smoothly through all temporal planes. Unfortunately, the ending is predictable, and the punchline is laid out on a platter. The director didn’t want to leave the audience with any doubts. In the third act, the story reached a point where weaving all the threads together and resolving them painlessly was challenging. At that moment, the creators made a banal plot twist – an inelegant script maneuver. One of the characters begins proudly narrating to Christine (but it’s clear he’s really speaking to us, the viewers) what exactly happened in the past. It’s an evident faux pas; I don’t like it when the director underestimates the intelligence of the audience.
Before I Go to Sleep is a one-time film. Right after leaving the cinema, you’ll find many more interesting activities than discussing the narrative intricacies of Rowan Joffe’s film. It’s a trivial, not particularly thrilling entertainment – a cinematic creation for blind thriller enthusiasts. I assure everyone else that after twenty-four hours, they’ll forget what they saw in the movie theater. The unpleasant sensation of a “memory gap” will be the only thing we’ll be able to share with the main character of Before I Go to Sleep.