Thursday, November 6, 2014

Before I Go To Sleep

Psychological mystery
Directed by: Rowan Joffe
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Adam Levy, Ann-Marie Duff, Dean Charles Chapman

Review by James Colt Harrison

It was a blessing we did not read the 2011 book “Before I Go To Sleep” by author S.J. Watson because the whole plot would have been given away. We like to be surprised, and writer/director Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of the novel did grab us in a few places. Although the idea of the story is not all that original---see 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore or the superb Guy Pearce in Memento--- and you may recognize some similarities in plot points. This film differs because it concentrates more on the relationship between the two main characters and is far from an action movie.

Shot in West Kensington, London, a very toney address indeed, Oscar® winning stars Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth play husband and wife. The ‘catch’ is she has suffered a brain injury and cannot remember anything from day to day. Her husband, Ben, is there to remind her each morning about what to do for the day’s agenda, and she totally relies on his love and guidance. He goes off to work as a school teacher and she is left alone at home. The music, by Ed Shearmur, swells threateningly to let us know not all is what we think.

Out of the blue a man calls and says he is her doctor.  It’s Dr. Nasch, played by usual heavy Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty). He says he is helping her get back her memory. But where does he come from, how did he know about her case, and exactly who is he? Strong, who plays the doctor as a little disheveled and unshaven egghead, isn’t your standard white-coated pristine looking physician. He gives you the chills, quite frankly.

Kidman’s character is prone to hysteria as she doesn’t quite understand all that is happening to her. Was it an accident that caused her memory failure or was she viciously attacked by a mad rapist? The audience is constantly kept on the edge of sanity and nail-biting is recommended. However, lacking is an insight into Kidman’s character. Both Kidman and Firth are superb actors and their talent comes to the forefront in this mind-numbing thriller.

It may not be all that original in concept, but it is fairly well-done to confuse, mystify and baffle the audience. Joffe apparently has caught the essence of the original novel and translated it into cinematic terms. Cinematographer Ben Davis gives the appropriate dark look to scenes where necessary. The rainy England countryside adds atmosphere that is appropriate. Those who like their films a little “edgy” will like this.

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