In Before I Go to Sleep, the pseudo-Hitchcockian thriller written and directed by Rowan Joffé (son of Roland), Nicole Kidman is Christine Lucas, a 40-year-old woman suffering from Drew-Barrymore-in-50-First-Dates Syndrome. She wakes up every day having completely forgotten everything that happened the day before. She’s a living Etch-a-Sketch who get shaken while she sleeps.
Colin Firth co-stars as Christine’s husband Ben, and Mark Strong is a neuro-psychologist whom Christine has been secretly seeing to help her through her condition. Of course the entire foundation of Before I Go to Sleep is built on the fact that we have no idea if both, one, or neither of those statements is true. The audience is as much in the dark as Christine, which certainly helps heighten the tension, at least for a bit.
As the story unfolds, we (and Christine) learn that her condition may have been the result of a car accident ten years earlier or due to a brutal beating that left her unconscious in a parking lot. Christine also may or may not have had a son, who may or may not have died, and she may or may not also have a best friend, who may or may not be who she says she is. See? Fairly standard Hitchcock. So obviously it all hinges on the big finale, when we finally find out (alongside Christine) what, exactly, is going on and who everybody is.
If it didn’t go against some kind of unwritten Movie Critic’s Code, I’d just give it away for you right here to save you the trouble.
In the past two weeks I’ve reviewed two movies (St. Vincent and Nightcrawler), each of which would have landed somewhere on the spectrum between “awful” and “barely passable” but was instead saved by a brilliant performance by its lead actor. I wish I could say the same about Sleep, particularly since Kidman holds up her end of the bargain with a phenomenal turn as Christine. But the story is just so completely full of holes and other frustrating tidbits that even the great Ms. Kidman can’t save it.
Why, for example, has this woman never, over the course of a decade, taken notes or kept a journal? Did she not see Memento? And how (without giving anything away) has the one, singular “big reveal” fact not already been discovered by, I don’t know, every other character already?
The easiest way to enjoy Sleep, if you’re still hell-bent on giving it a shot, is to pull a Christine and just forget everything you know about intelligent storytelling. Otherwise, let’s all just forget it ever happened.