Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review: Before I Go to Sleep

Year: 2014
Director: Rowan Joffee
Screenplay: Rowan Joffee
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth

Synopsis is here

Before I go to sleep is the type of pot boiler that you saw often in the 90’s. Usually late at night on terrestrial television. The film gets top marks for being thematically relevant, but its execution, is nothing to write home about.

Based on a popular bestselling 2011 novel, Before I Go to Sleep is another entry into “amnesia films”. Like Memento (2000), the film has a central character, whose ailment is so acute, it allows those around them to insidiously manipulate their fragile situation. When done well, you get Memento; an acidic thriller that is hard to shake off to this day. Before I go to sleep is a more neutered and neutral thriller. It’s as long as they come, but it’s so trim, there’s little to give it character. The film is smooth enough in its craft, but it's sanded down in such a way that there's no rough edges to make it stand out. Joffee makes a simple, moderate movie that does little to offend, however, after predicting the film's outcome in the first ten minutes, there wasn't much else to make me want to hang around. I stayed, however, because I’m not Rex Reed.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Before I Go to Sleep. Nicole Kidman does the cracked porcelain doll thing well. Mark Strong and Colin Firth are cast for clear, obvious reasons and both play to their strengths. The film's most interesting element is how the texts could be considered within the feminist argument. Here we have a fractured and damaged woman whose world is controlled and manipulated by the men she knows. The incident which brought about her amnesia, as well as the amnesia itself, creates an interesting commentary on how abused women are viewed, and how the trauma affects the victim’s psyche. Kidman’s line of “I wish I wasn't scared all the time” is an all too knowing remark.

This said, the film's overall execution makes little waves. Before I go to sleep, may perhaps be a more interesting book, with the film's streamlined execution, doing little to make us grasp hold of its characters. While the storytelling allows the viewer to stay one step ahead of the film. Not the place you need to be with a feature like this.

The film trundles along, with Kidman trembling nervously through the film's intentionally drab blue/ gray cinematography and Hitchcockian conceits. Yet when comparing this to films of last year, which gave us ludicrous, stylised, yet highly entertaining thrillers such as Trance, Side Effects and Stoker, this slightly dour, workman-like effort may find itself as fodder for bleary eyed insomniacs more than anything else.