The second adaptation of a bestselling crime novel about a dysfunctional marriage to hit the big screen this fall – after David Fincher’s Gone Girl – is the similarly pulpy but far less effective Before I Go to Sleep by Rowan Joffe. Based on S.J. Watson’s book of the same name, it’s a loyal translation that reminds one of all the weaknesses of the original and adds little flavour through the cinematic treatment.
A woman who has lost her ability to store memory beyond one day wakes up every morning to find a strange man sleeping next to her. It’s an enticing enough hook but as in the book, the inherent absurdity and inadequacy of this single-line premise becomes obvious very quickly. On a narrative level, the apparent impossibility of building trust and forming intimacy under these circumstances renders the central relationship such a pointless pursuit it seems blatantly suspicious even without any of the half-hearted encouragement. And just on a technical level, the only vaguely foreboding but immensely repetitive process of witnessing a lead character start from scratch over and over again is tiresome to say the least.
The third act of the movie, beginning with a loud and unexpected slap, sends a much-needed jolt to a hitherto sluggish rhythm. But the big reveal, while momentarily spine-tingling, especially in its implication of the sick psychology of enslavement at work here, also feels deeply contrived and suggests everything that has come before is designed solely for the purpose of that bang of an ending. Elsewhere, the principal cast boasting multiple Academy Award winners delivers absolutely nothing remarkable and the scoring of the film, which crams every banal moment with ceaseless orchestral manipulation, is patently, noteworthily misguided.
Before I Go To Sleep | Directed by Rowan Joffe (USA 2014) with Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong. Starts November 13