It is amazing to think that the first thing I ever saw Colin Firth in was a 1985 made for TV film called Dutch Girls. Equally amazing is that the one actor who completely blew me away in this London Weekend Television production was actor Timothy Spall and not Firth. The next feature I saw Firth in, he played a murderous maniac. The film was Apartment Zero. The DVD was picked up for a song in a shop in Cornwall whilst on holiday and “Mr. Darcy” became a firm favorite from that moment on. Now, in Before I Go To Sleep, Firth plays opposite Nicole Kidman and he comes dangerously close to stealing the show.
This was another film that was missed when it opened in cinemas last year. Presumably the film did not perform up to expectations and it was not showing at a lot of theaters in Vegas. Watching the DVD, it is hard to see just why it was received so poorly. Granted, there are a few plot holes but not having read the S.J. Watson novel the film is based upon these were not so glaringly obvious that they destroyed the film.
The film is about 40 year old Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) who is an amnesiac that, after she goes to sleep, forgets everything. Where she is, who she is and so on. Her husband, Ben (Colin Firth) looks after her and leaves notes and directions scattered throughout their home to help his wife cope. Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) is a neuro-psychologist who is attempting to help Christine recover her missing memories.
According to her husband, Christine lost her memories after a horrific car accident. Nasch says that she was found naked and badly beaten. The whole film keeps the audience wondering, along with Kidman’s character, whom to believe. As pointed out, in the book’s reviews, the original tale was a clever mixture of everyday events blended with a surreal amount of tension and fear.
The film, directed by Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later, The American), who also wrote the screenplay, does a good job keeping at keeping the viewer guessing. Kidman delivers in the film and her performance, along with Strong’s and Firth’s is top notch.
It is hard to understand why the film got such mixed reviews when it opened. This English thriller hits all the right notes and while it does not revel in its Englishness, the film could have been set anywhere, it does add a certain something to the events. It may well be that the movie was too clever for many to see the adroit way that the puzzle is trotted out for the audience.
Another problem could be the short-term amnesia plot device. Certainly it has been done before, Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Momento, where Guy Pearce knocked it out of the park with the mystery thriller and then Adam Sandler, along with Drew Barrymore, who played the whole thing for laughs with 50 First Dates in 2004.
It is nice to see Kidman shunning the glamorous look while playing a woman trying so desperately to remember her past. The film keeps the twists and turns coming as each new bit of information just raises more questions. By the time the film ends, the viewer doesn’t trust anyone at all.
The cinematography, which is brilliant, and the lighting combine to give the action a deliberately murky look and feel. This is a delightful gem of a film well worth watching, if for no other reason than for Kidman and Firth’s interaction. The addition of Mark Strong, proves once again that the Brits really do corner the market in the world of acting.
Available on Redbox and other video streaming services along with Amazon, et al, Before I Go To Sleep is a real 4 out of 5 star film. A cracking movie that will keep you guessing until the climax.