Saturday, November 1, 2014

Before I Sleep (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Before I Go To Sleep

Rowan Joffé (Brighton Rock) offers an entertaining if cliche-bound thriller with echoes of "Momento" in "Before I Go To Sleep." The film, which stars Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, also has traces of  "Suspicion" as well, given Kidman's very paranoia.

Here Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up with the handsome sleeping Ben (Colin Firth)

Normally, for most this would not be a problem.

But Christine doesn't know who Ben is. He explains somewhat laconically that she has had an head injury years ago and they have been married for about fourteen years.

Christine is flabbergasted.

Ben leaves a daily itinerary on a board with important details written out step by step.

Christine moves through the modern house as if stuck in molasses and Ben is almost a cigar store Indian given his stony immobility.

Christine gets calls from her doctor (Mark Strong) who explains that she has a video journal in a camera located in a drawer.

Christine locates the object and watches clips of herself ( ala "Twelve Monkeys") relate that she does have amnesia and more disturbingly, that she will forget the day's events as soon as she falls into sleep each night with no recall the next morning.

Still even more frightening, the video version of  Christine feels someone is out to kill her.

Consequently, a domestic noose of sorts seems to tighten around her, within the house and the people she spies. As we can guess, trust becomes hazardous.

Directors like Hitchcock (Suspicion) Roman Polanski (Repulsion) and  George Cukor (Gaslight) have worked masterfully with the premise of the harried or hysterical wife and Rowan Joffé pays adequate homage.

The film also does well, skillfully blending in past and present events and subversively altering Firth's handsome and iconic actor's image. Here, Firth gives us an odd and passive sorrow combined with a reckless sardonic quality. Best of all, the film highlights Firth as a man with the capacity to be both eerie and insipid.

However, after the first jolt, the melodrama is so heightened, bold and loud that there is little juice left for subsequent surprises.

The film would have fared better with softer and creepier scares. Some of the shocks are foreshadowed by jarring noises or blunt equipment just out of reach in the manner of any network Tv shocker.

The oft-filmed story of the woman with nowhere to run has such a rich cinema history that the twists and turns in "Before I Go to Sleep" seem a bit slumberous.

The one lasting element remains the emotional power of Kidman and Firth who perform all of the loud reversals  onscreen as if for the first time, almost conceptually as a kind of film within a film.

By itself though, "Before I Go To Sleep" suffers a bit from a déjà vu that it shares with its other more original, cinematic cousins.

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