‘Before I Go to Sleep’ movie review: Nicole Kidman in Memento gone wrong


“Well, you’re remembering a lot of things lately!” – Ben Lucas (Colin Firth), to his amnesiac wife Christine (Nicole Kidman). 

Before I Go to Sleep is a terrible movie, but it’s also a highly entertaining one: this positively idiotic thriller – which is basically Memento told in chronological order – gets sillier and sillier as it goes along, up to the point where I was struggling (and failing) to contain my laughter. It requires so much suspension of disbelief that it might as well require the viewer to have amnesia, too. 

Kidman stars as Christine Lucas, a woman who wakes up each morning with no memory of the past twenty or so years. She might as well have no memory of anything before that, either: throughout the film, she never once attempts to contact family, friends, classmates, neighbors, radio personalities, or anyone who can assist her in establishing some base of reality.

No, Christine starts every day completely fresh, and doesn’t even leave herself reminders of what may have transpired before. I guess she never saw Memento, or had the idea to tattoo info important info across her body. Of course, it might make sense if she wanted to forget something, but we highly doubt this tepid thriller has anything like that on its mind. 

So she wakes up next to a man she doesn’t know and takes him at his word. He’s her husband, Ben (Firth), and after a terrible car accident eight years ago she has lost the memory of, oh, the twelve years prior to that. For reasons of plot convenience. She doesn’t remember Ben at all, but after going through the exact same thing with her day after day for the past eight years… Well, it would be crazy if he weren’t genuine, right? Right? 

Despite living in upper-middle-class surroundings, Christine doesn’t have any kind of medical assistance, either. Ben leaves each morning to teach at the local university, too. So this woman wakes up in the morning with knowing nothing, gets a quick brief, and then is left to her own devices. For eight years. We wonder what her daily routine might be. Sit and stare at the wall? It doesn’t matter, does it?

No, it’s only after those eight years that Christine apparently decides to seek help. She sees psychiatrist Dr. Nash (Mark Strong), who has her keep a video diary and calls her every morning to remind her to view it. She keeps this hidden from her husband, because this is a thriller and he may not be who he says he is despite taking care of her for the past half-decade.

Or is Dr. Nash the one she can’t trust? I guess Christine truly is in a pickle. One that she could sort out in a few minutes with some phone calls to the relevant health offices. Or how about she meets a proper doctor instead of some dude in a car that rings up and tells her he’s her shrink. But no, no… we must assume that the condition that induced amnesia has also stripped her of common sense and greatly reduced her IQ. That might explain her actions in the film.

Suffice it to say that the denouement of Before I Go to Sleep makes no sense whatsoever as it throws logic and character motivation clear out the window. I wouldn’t dare spoil what happens, not because it might ruin the film, but because you deserve the WTF moment that happens when you realize that the filmmakers actually expected this resolution to make any kind of sense. 

It might be described as Memento told in a straightforward manner, or Groundhog Day told without any sense of daily internal progression, but Before I Go to Sleep shows just how wrong these kinds of films can go. Director Rowan Joffe previously directed the stylish Brighton Rock, but any filmmaking competence here is drowned out by the bonkers story mechanics. Still, if you’re a bad movie fan, be sure to catch this one for a laugh.

Before I Go To Sleep


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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