‘Before I Go to Sleep’ Review: 50 First Daze
The ten-year-old comedy 50 First Dates is notable for only two reasons: 1) it was the last time Adam Sandler was arguably funny, and 2) it was the first time anyone made up this particularly stupid form of amnesia, in which the subject loses their memory every time they fall asleep. This entirely fictional condition inspires a handful of chuckles in 50 First Dates until you realize that hiding said condition from the victim, and using their handicap to facilitate dating them, is creepy, creepy shit.
Which brings us to Before I Go to Sleep, a movie that takes the same fictional condition and embraces the many disturbing possibilities that surround it. Nicole Kidman stars as a woman who loses her memory every time she dozes off, and Colin Firth co-stars as the husband who doesn’t bother telling her everything every single day, because it’s too stressful to watch her deal with the same tragedies for the first time over and over and over and over again. But maybe, just maybe, he’s hiding a lot more than that.
While it’s hard to shake off the knowledge that the entire foundation for this Hitchcockian thriller was taken from an Adam Sandler movie, Rowan Joffe’s film does explore some of the most dramatic elements with anxious sympathy. The film raises serious questions about how we would treat people if they wouldn’t remember our actions 24 hours later, and whether we ourselves would choose to live through life’s biggest traumas if we had the option not to. Before I Go to Sleep is, if nothing else, a movie with interesting things on its mind.
Unfortunately, it is also boring as fuck.
Related: 50 First Dates: 10 Years Later
Before I Go to Sleep lives entirely in that drowsy, hazy state between hitting the pillow and actual slumber. Its protagonists speak in a consistently whispery monotone that renders most of their emotions moot by the time they reach the audience’s receptors. The cinematography is dreary and washed out, and overall Before I Go to Sleep simply refuses to shake us out of catatonia with any of the exciting moments that might make the most of a story that must, by definition, have tons and tons of twists.
And although one of those twists is a real corker, subverting audience expectation by transforming an obvious set-up into anything but, the majority are predictable Lifetime Original Movie concoctions about suburban strife which make Nicole Kidman’s condition feel like a blessing instead of a curse. If I had the option of forgetting everything that happens in Before I Go to Sleep, I know I’d take it.
Before I Go to Sleep has a concept that a cleverer storyteller could have had a lot of fun with, but there’s no fun to be had in Rowan Joffe’s movie. It’s a dopey premise that makes little use of an exceptional cast of actors, and falls completely apart when you realize that none of it makes any sense. How did the doctor get her phone number in the first place? Why did it take years for anyone to suggest she keep a diary? Why, oh why, didn’t you see something else instead?