Before I Go To Sleep (2014) – Review

Directed by Rowan Joffe
Written by Rowan Joffe from S J Watson
Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong
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.

You can just see it, can’t you? Before this films’ release you might have watched the trailer for the first time and thought, just like me, with a loud voice in the soft, mushy gooey bits inside your head melon – MEMENTO!! This is just a knock-off Nolan wannabe!! How very dare they?!
And yes, to an extent, you would be right in thinking that this bears a striking resemblance to one of those films that made Christopher Nolan into the powerhouse of cinema that he is today. After all, without Memento being so utterly stunning, there may have been nothing more from the man. It is right, therefore to cast a critical glance over this as a single, original entity as doing anything else would be nothing more than time-wasting. It’s not Memento. It was never going to be, so let’s just leave it at that. If Memento is Lionel Messi, then this is more your Vinnie Jones, surely. In short, much less class and subtlety is what we would rightfully expect. I mean this is easy. It’s (mostly) in the right order and everything!
Undermined, hoodwinked and generally taken advantage of seems to be the lot for amnesiacs in cinema, but luckily for the audience, we have much better memories and know before going in that this is going to be something very similar to something we have seen before. If Memento had never existed, or we’d all just forgotten about it as easily as our lead here manages to forget yesterday, every day, then this might have been a much more satisfying project. Problem is, we haven’t forgotten, so try as you might to ignore the massive white elephant in the room, you simply can’t. Every nuance and plot device is up for judgement against something that had no equal beforehand for very good reason; nobody has had the nerve to even approach an idea that had been done so elegantly before they tried to conjure anything nearly as well crafted and iconic.
In requisite Edge of Tomorrow/Groundhog Day/Source Code type shenanigans, every (literally) waking moment for Christine (Kidman) is pretty much the same. It starts with a quickly dawning realisation that she doesn’t know who she is, where she is or who the arm belongs to that’s draped over her in bed. See, Christine has had a bump on the noggin at some point she has yet to realise (again) and this is what is causing her to forget everything that has happened the day before. Every time she wakes up, she forgets that she’s actually in her forties and married to Ben (Firth) and still assumes she’s twenty-six.

Now, just wait a moment…

If she thinks she’s twenty-six, that would suggest that she had the ‘accident’ that caused all of this mental anguish at that age. If not, then why does she think she is that particular age? This doesn’t make any mathematical sense, yet it isn’t approached here. For reasons you will work out for yourself due to the plot which I am not going into, this is a bit of a head-scratcher, but when you watch it, please explain to me how it all fits together (if you can) as the inconsistencies to me are annoyingly important.

Anyway, with the help of Doctor Nash (Mark Strong) and the most useful prop seen on screen since Guy Pearce bought a Polaroid camera and a Sharpie, Christine begins to piece together a mystery that’s been going on for, well..who knows how long. Not her, that’s for sure. Still, progress is made and revelations are uncovered. Really, at this point, the similarities end with Memento and S J Watson’s original work, treated here by Rowan Joffe, takes a slightly different turn of events. Christine, after all, is not really after revenge for what happened to her, just understanding. If that understanding were to bring justice, then all the better. The story and its plot do make for intriguing viewing as the finger of grubby suspicion wavers between the two men in her life, both potentially guilty for reasons best known to themselves, as if they actually got around to telling Christine, it would have been unlikely (until now at least, seemingly) that she would have had the wherewithal to comprehend it, much less tattoo those reasons onto her chest.

Where Nolan’s expertise elegantly made the viewer as confused as Leonard, his own forgetful lead, Joffe does not imbibe the same sense of puppetry confusion in his audience, failing to draw you in as completely. The whole affair of Christine’s slow but seemingly inevitable return to ‘remembering things’ seems a little too contrived and the one real twist is not really that surprising, or come to that, very exciting. Try as you might, if you have seen Memento, you will be helpless to avoid the comparisons between the two films, especially if you are a lover of Nolan’s version and subsequently, you will feel nothing but disappointment almost all the way through this, which is a shame as on its own two feet, without such an impressive and award-winning big brother, it might have been more appreciated. Good performances make up for the lack of originality to a certain extent, but even watching Kidman, Firth and Strong do something substandard well, doesn’t replace Guy Pearce doing massive justice to something outstanding.

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