"Before I Go to Sleep" A Psychological Puzzler
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Think of it like "Momento" played in reverse -- that is, in a normal time sequence. "Before I Go to Sleep" is a British mystery about amnesia starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Don’t forget to see it.
The story as I remember it: Every morning Christine Lucas (a quivery Kidman) wakes up wondering where she is. A man (Firth) explains that he’s her husband Ben and that she’s suffering from anterograde amnesia, a condition that prevents the formation of new memories. She’s had the disability ever since being injured in a horrific attack by an unknown assailant several years ago.
She remembers nothing. Fortunately, she gets a daily phone call from her doctor (Mark Strong) reminding her to play a video diary explaining her condition.
When she starts having faint ticklings of memory -- about a friend named Claire (Anne-Marie Duff), a son, a man named Mark -- she determines to solve the puzzle. Everything her husband and the doctor tell her does not jibe. Are they deliberately concealing secrets from her?
This plot will inevitably remind you of Alfred Hitchcock’s "Spellbound." That led one observer to describe the movie as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents 50 First Dates." Another characterized Kidman as "essentially a terrorized Hitchcock blonde in more sensible shoes."
But there’s more to "Before I Go to Sleep" than that.
"The film’s actually very difficult to talk about without spoilers, isn’t it?" groans Colin Firth. "There are so many things you’re supposed not to know. And to actually discuss what any of these characters are, tends to spoil what is supposed to be withheld."
"I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers," says Nicole Kidman. "I love the intimacy of two or three actors in this sort of genre – I’m always drawn to it."
She adds, "The idea of your partner not being who you think they are: I think it was James Joyce who said someone can tell you something about themselves in ten seconds and you can have lived with them for forty years, and it will change everything."
Kidman researched the syndrome her character has in "Before I Go to Sleep." She assures us, "This is actually a thing that can happen. And your life is made up of memories: once you lose those, who are you?"
This is the second time Firth and Kidman have played husband and wife in a movie, the first being in "The Railway Man." In that film, Firth was the one with psychological problems. In this one, it’s Kidman’s turn.
Why is she drawn to these kinds of films? "My dad’s a psychologist," she confesses.