Before I Go To Sleep

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06/09/14

Another day, another literary adaptation. This one is based on S.J. Watson’s above-average page turner and it’s one of those situations where having read the source novel proves to be a distinct disadvantage. There’s a big ‘reveal’ towards the end of the story which simply doesn’t work if you’ve read the book. (Think Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, a devastating ending in the source novel that’s completely defused when you know what’s coming.)

Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) wakes up to find that she doesn’t know anything. (Well, we’ve all done that.) She is introduced to her caring husband, Ben (Colin Firth) who explains that some years ago she had an ‘accident,’ and now her short term memory is so badly affected, she remembers only what happens in any given day. Every night when she goes to sleep, her memory is wiped and she has to start all over again. She receives a call from a Doctor Nash (Mark Strong) who tells her he’s been working with her on her memory and instructs her to look for a hidden video camera, which records her day-to-day progress. He also tells her that her problem wasn’t caused by an accident at all but by a brutal attack…

What worked so convincingly in the novel doesn’t  translate successfully to the big screen. Though the film is well acted by its key players and there’s workmanlike direction from Rowen Joffe, seeing everything in visual terms only serves to accentuate how risible much of the storyline actually is. An ending which I found rather pat in the book, is presented here as double cheese with extra cheese, and prompts difficult-to-answer questions about some of the character’s motivations.

If you’ve read the book, you’ll almost certainly be disappointed by this lacklustre interpretation. If you haven’t, you’ll probably think of it as a moderately successful thriller. Either way, this isn’t going to rock your world.

2.8 stars

Philip Caveney

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