“Before I Go to Sleep,” the new Nicole Kidman movie, has a lot in common with the recent hit “Gone Girl.” Both star Academy Award winners, each feature a tall icy blonde actress in the lead role and are martial stories with an edge. The big difference between them? ”Gone Girl” is a hair-raising thriller and “Before I Go To Sleep” is not.
Based on the best-selling novel by S.J. Watson, it’s the story of Christine (Nicole Kidman), a traumatized woman who wakes up everyday with no memory. As she sleeps her mind erases itself, wiping away any new information. Her husband Ben (Colin Firth) has arranged their house as a tribute to their relationship—wedding pictures and mementoes from their life together decorate the walls—to help give her a sense of time, place and security. A neuropsychologist (Mark Strong) is secretly working with her to reassemble the shards of her memory, but as her synapsis start firing she begins to question everything about her life.
The thing that is supposed to keep us on the edge of our seats for the first hour or so of “Before I Go To Sleep” is the not knowing. Like Christine we’re never sure what is true and what is false. Of what we see how much of it is confabulation—Christine imagining the missing bits of her memory—and how much is real?
It’s the stuff of a solid thriller. “Memento,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Spellbound” have all masterfully mined similar material with more success. Director Rowan Joffe has made a stylish looking movie but allows it to get bogged down by repetition and too-tame performances. It’s a shame because the twist—and you know there has to be a twist—works well enough and there are a few tense moments in the climax but the preposterous denouement wipes away any good will the film’s exciting-ish apogee offered.