Before I Go to Sleep (3 stars)

Before I Go to Sleep

Superficial but stylish thriller based on the bestseller starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth

A psychological thriller boasting a top drawer cast and more twists than a bag of fusilli pasta Before I Go to Sleep is based on SJ Watson's bestseller. It stars Nicole Kidman as vulnerable amnesiac Christine Lucas, torn between two suspicious but swarthy men: her husband Ben (Colin Firth) and the neuropsychologist who's treating her, Mark Strong's Dr Nash.

Christine is living in limbo, unable to recall key details from her life (including her marriage and the incident which led to her memory loss) and unable to retain anything she learns. Her dreams proffer clipped clues and the film smartly substitutes the novel's journal for a more cinematically interesting video diary, which Christine contributes to each day at the instruction of Dr Nash.

The novel itself was regarded by some as a literary thriller whereas the film magnifies its contrivances. In its efforts to drip-feed us information characters behave in ways that are improbably, sometimes amusingly evasive, with even the primary cast (which also includes Anne-Marie Duff) reduced to expositional tools or suspects.

The wrenching brutality of the climatic reveal gives way to a tonally jarring closing scene but, if you can forgive that and a few logical leaps (and ignore the general sense that everyone involved deserves better than this), Before I Go to Sleep might make for a wickedly entertaining evening out. It clocks in at a nifty 92-minutes, contains some carefully cultivated unease and you certainly get your money's worth in revelations.

Rowan Joffe's second film (after Brighton Rock) promises an exploration of memory and its relationship with identity but in the main delivers only superficial, yet admittedly stylish, thrills. Hence it's unlikely to have much lingering impact and, the morning after watching it, you may struggle to recall events with any greater clarity than its amnesiac protagonist.

General release from Fri 5 Sep.

Before I Go To Sleep - UK trailer

Before I Go To Sleep

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Rowan Joffe
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong
  • UK release: 5 September 2014

Christine (Kidman) is an amnesiac, unable to recall her marriage to husband Ben (Firth) and the incident which caused her amnesia in the first place; can neuropsychologist Dr Nash (Strong) help? Stylish but superficial thriller which makes for an entertaining evening's viewing, but – like Christine – you may not remember…