However you feel about the prospect of a snivelling, red-eyed Nicole Kidman muttering down a camera lense at you, the fact is such an image sits well with how we think of the actress. Most likely no one has seen Bewitched, but for all that she effervesces in that movie, it is an exception that proves the rule of Kidman generally playing brittle, malnourished-looking and glacial. Never to say she does not deliver or perform well, but there is an air of what to expect with Kidman. In Before I go to Sleep she lines out with other strongholds of the great untanned and stoic in the form of Mark Strong and Colin Firth for a trifecta of no one having a good time.
Kidman plays Christine Lucas, a woman that wakes each morning with all memories formed during the previous year wiped. Each day starts as a clean slate but not in a positive mental attitude type of way. There are crucial missing memories and the people around her (Firth on husband duties and Strong as her therapist) offer differing versions of events. Both men are sinister and unsettling and so a string of questioning begins as Christine must untangle events. Drew Barrymore woke up in a similar predicament every morning in 50 First Dates and, despite the presence of Adam Sandler, coped pretty well, most likely due to the Hawaiian setting. Kidman gets no such luck, or look; everything is a variation of rinsed out grey and the crushing reality she must face is that she can trust no one including herself. Her memories, mismatched information and paranoia all spiral.
The audience is equally left fumbling in the dark, having any certainty eroded and this is crucial to the film’s successes. It’s almost a social experiment to present a set of characters and circumstances to interrogate where a single truth can’t be identified. There’s an inevitable reference here to Hitchcock. Any approach that plays with the audience’s perspective and isolates a blonde in a heightened situation will draw comparisons. Kidman is recovering from her role portraying one of Hitchcock’s most famous blondes, Grace Kelly, and she is the films strength throughout even as events begin to unfurl into silliness. The valour of the premise becomes lost when veils are pulled down and the film slips into convenient, familiar territory for those of us that have been around the block with twists. That’s probably everybody.
A lesser class of review would now tie events up with a too-obvious conclusion that Before I Go To Sleep may very likely be wiped from your mind the following morning. Not here on Scannain.com. This is still a movie to dissect, and worth your time, if only to relish deconstructing its logic and look back on the journey to that conclusion.