Before I Go to Sleep
When Christine first wakes up, she's confused and disoriented. She doesn't recognize the room, the bed she's in or the man she's sleeping naked next to.
What happened? She must have blacked out at some point. But she can't seem to even remember what could have possibly led up to that, much less where she is at this moment. No boozy party. No late night date. No nothing. Then she gets her next surprise.
When she disengages from the sleeping man's arm and makes her way to the bathroom, she sees herself in the mirror. And she's … old. She's in her 20s, in college, but this woman before her has got to be at least in her 30s? 40s? 50s!?
Then she spots the photos taped to the bathroom wall. They're pics of her and the man in the bed. A guy named Ben, according to the sticky notes. And if these pictures can be trusted, he's not just some man. He's her husband.
After grabbing a towel to cover herself, she walks back into the foreign bedroom and sees that "Ben" is now up too, sitting on the edge of the bed. And he explains everything.
She's suffering from a type of amnesia caused by the trauma of a horrible accident, he says. She actually is 40 years old and they've been married for 14 years. Each day she wakes up, he tells her with a tired but seemingly loving patience, they meet anew and she gathers as much sense of herself as she can in the course of the day. And then she forgets. The moment she goes to sleep, her brain resets, erasing everything.
After her husband dresses and goes off to work, Christine is left alone, still reeling. But the morning isn't done with its surprises. She soon gets a phone call from a Dr. Nasch, who quickly asks if her husband has gone. The psychologist reports that he has been secretly working with Christine for weeks now, trying to help her regain pieces of her memory.
"Go to the dressing cabinet in your bedroom," he tells her. "Look in the back on the floor, probably in a shoebox." When Christine finds and opens the box she discovers a digital camera. She's been keeping a secret video diary with the good doctor's help, it seems. But … is he a good doctor? Or is he manipulating a wounded, confused woman? Are the images she finds on the camera real or coerced? And what about the man who calls himself Ben? Is he everything he says he is?
Can she possibly figure out the whole truth before she goes to sleep again?
Christine has to find a way to push back against the falsehoods she finds and piece together the truth. And it's fair to say that she is brave as she struggles to regain her mental balance. We also find that there are indeed caring people around her who honestly express their love for her, helping her along the way.
Shortly after Christine first awakes in bed naked, we see her fully nude from the rear. On other mornings she get up dressed in a skimpy slip-like nightdress. She closely examines scars on her bare midriff. And she stands in the rain in a soaked and form-revealing sweater.
Ben has sex with Christine on the bathroom counter. They kiss and paw at each other. (Sexual motions are obvious.) We also see Christine and a lover caressing each other on a bed. (She's dressed in a skirt and bra.)
The "accident" that Christine is told about actually turns out to be a vicious and nearly deadly beating with repeated blows to the head that she received from some unknown person or persons. She was found naked, bloodied and gashed. We see a police file picture … and then in a number of real-time and flashback sequences we see Christine beaten and battered over and over again. She's slapped and punched in the face. Slammed headfirst into a door. Hit with a lamp and driven into a glass table, shattering it. She's clubbed over the head with a champagne bottle while she's prone on the floor. Bleeding profusely and trying to crawl away, she's grabbed by the leg and dragged back for more punishment.
A man is stabbed in the arm with a broken bottle and knocked unconscious with a clothes iron.
Crude or Profane Language
Four or five f-words. Three or four s-words. We hear "pr--k" once, along with a handful of misuses of God's and Jesus' names.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Wine and champagne show up at meals, etc. Dr. Nasch injects Christine with a mild sedative. Chloroform is used to knock somebody unconscious.
Other Negative Elements
So many lies are mixed in with the truths around her that Christine often can't sort them out.
Based on a bestselling 2011 novel by S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep is an "intimate" thriller. Its atypical psychogenic amnesia plot device (used similarly in pics such as Memento and 50 First Dates) intentionally leaves us, for most of the story, as confused as Christine is, wondering which "stranger" is worthy of trust and which is not. And Nicole Kidman makes us want to care for her delicate, nerve-jangled and memory-deprived character all the while.
But from a purely cinematic (box office business) perspective, the movie seems almost too intimate and character-focused. A good chunk of it—driven by secreted-away video-diary entries recorded in a side bathroom while someone untrustworthy could be listening nearby—feels like it might have made a much better stage play than a big-screen movie.
All of that said, Before I Go to Sleep's real problem is not one of scope and craft as much as wince-worthy moments betwixt the plot points. Seeing a fragile, set-upon woman slapped viciously and then beaten bloody and senseless on numerous occasions is, to say the least, unsettling. Add in obscenities, sex and nudity and you're left with content that will likely linger in your amnesia-free memory.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Nicole Kidman as Christine; Colin Firth as Mike; Mark Strong as Dr. Nasch; Anne-Marie Duff as Claire; Adam Levy as Ben
Rowan Joffe ( )
October 31, 2014
January 27, 2015