I love reading, it’s a chance for me to unwind and create another world outside of movies, I can create as I please with the words on the page and in turn, become a filmmaker for a while. Whenever a book is made into a film, I always get excited, I always like to see how someone else can view a piece of literature and how it may differ from my perspective. With recent hits like “Gone Girl” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” getting every page to spring to life on screen, the literature genre of movies has never been so popular. Enter “Before I Go to Sleep” by S.J. Watson, an intricate and compelling piece of literature from a first time author. Production began on the film when Ridley Scott (A “Do No Wrong” director of mine.) picked up the rights to the novel as an executive producer through his brand “Scott Free”, I was very intrigued. Add Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth to the equation, and what we have could possibly be the pinnacle of book-to-film movies.
So close, so close.
I found myself in awe at the beauty shown and the talent involved in “Before I Go to Sleep”, but I kept harping back to the novel, and how involved I was in it’s intricacy. I can’t expect a first time experience from something I already know, but what’s happened in bringing “Before I Go to Sleep” to the big screen is with it’s screenplay. Nothing is inherently clunky in the dialogue or pacing, the issue is that it strays vastly from the original source material, sometimes for no apparent reasoning whatsoever. So much so as to change the ending, not to change the storyline’s structure, but mostly just to take away the effectiveness of the book’s ending.
Aside from that, there are a lot of good things that came with “Before I Go to Sleep”.
Kidman is as good as ever playing Christine Lucas, an amnesiac who wakes up every day unaware of her surroundings and having to learn the past 15 years of her life in a single day before she falls asleep again and forgets it all over again. Colin Firth turns in a harrowing performance as her husband, Ben, who cares for his wife daily, despite Christine not knowing who he is. Christine begins to see a neuropsychologist behind Ben’s back, as he dislikes her getting treatment for her illness due to previous failed attempts. Her doctor, Dr. Nasch, played by an elegantly intense Mark Strong, begins to have Christine film a visual diary each day to help her retain her memories as she goes on, and to possibly stir up any repressed memories. After building a few days up, Christine begins to see disturbing behavior from her husband change from day to day, as she begins to unlock secrets that could unlock the key to her recovery.
Rowan Joffe directs the film beautifully, using muted colors and pale grays to set our scene. The film becomes a comfortable, domestic rendition of Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”, which is a reason it succeeds purely on film standards. The film does shift to some contrasting environments every so often, simply to add some visual punch to things, and to lead up to the even more different looking finale of the film. It has the Scott touch to it, which in no doubt heightens the film experience quite a bit.
“Before I Go to Sleep”, on pure film standards, is fantastic, a domestic thriller in the vein of “Gone Girl” mixed with “Memento”. Kidman, Firth and Strong are fantastic, the direction from Joffe is beautiful and the touch of Scott is comforting to someone like me, who could always use more Scott. Unfortunately, if we factor in the fantastic novel by S.J. Watson, the film falls short. Changing every little such thing to somehow shorten the runtime, but in turn keeping us in the same place as we would’ve been if we had just kept to the source material. Some things are understandably cut, but to change little things becomes silly and tedious at a point in the film. It doesn’t change the fact that this is a stylish, well made thriller that if seen with no knowledge of the novel, will astound, but anyone who read Watson’s entrancing novel might feel a bit jipped leaving.
Directed by: Rowan Joffe
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Anne-Marie Duff.
Runtime: 92 minutes
Rating: R for some brutal violence and language.
Clarius Entertainment presents, a Scott Free and Millenium Films production, in association with StudioCanal, a film by Rowan Joffe, “Before I Go to Sleep”