Thriller held back by clichés and confusion

‘Before I Go to Sleep’ initially promising, but fails to deliver.

While Rowan Joffe’s Before I Go to Sleep could have been one of this year’s most entertaining thrillers, its adherence to overused conventions drags it down.

Although the film offers a strong cast and a screenplay adapted from S. J. Watson’s New York Times best-selling novel, Joffe opts for the safe and predictable in lieu of the challenging and thought-provoking. Instead of using its many resources to create something meaningful, or at the very least imaginative, the film remains plot-driven and unoriginal.

The movie focuses on 40-year-old Christine (Nicole Kidman) who suffers from injury-induced amnesia. Her husband Ben (Colin Firth) explains that Christine stores up information for a day and when she wakes up in the morning it’s all gone; she’s back to the memory of her early twenties. The rest of the film focuses on Christine, with the assistance of a psychiatrist (Mark Strong), as she tries to piece together different events and people from her past.

The film invokes the common frustration of not being able to remember something, which simultaneously increases suspense by strategically withholding or revealing information. It quickly becomes difficult to decide if anyone is who they say they are. Clearly, the main idea was to make the audience feel unsure of whom to trust, however Joffe went a little overboard with the number of plot twists and red herrings. It might be easier to just sit back and enjoy the visuals rather than try to predict the final outcome of the vacillating plot line.

Gripping cinematography does allow for vividly intimate shots, helping the fact that the actors were given very little to work with. It becomes clear that Joffe has chosen a set of actors with a talent for shedding a perfectly-timed single tear. Indeed, Kidman’s tear-streaked face seems to be one of the most common recurring shots. Tasked with carrying the film, Kidman does good work with what she’s given, and is probably one of the most stable aspects of the entire film, despite her character’s unstable condition.

In today’s film culture, it seems like most movies are running a marathon against one another to see which one can produce the longest screen-time. In this respect, Before I Go to Sleep is refreshingly succinct and to the point. However, this is its only refreshing aspect. The rest of the film is conventional, to the point that it fails to stand out from the many other identity-crisis thrillers such as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, and even the Bourne series. Although each scene is carefully structured, well developed and skillfully executed, they nonetheless all possess an air of familiarity.

Before I Go to Sleep’s clear potential accentuates the disappointing final product. Joffe’s film unfortunately brings a new meaning to the term “ignorance is bliss,” as I for one feel that if I were able to wake up tomorrow having completely forgotten the film, I would be better off for it.

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