Before I Go To Sleep (2014): Movie or Book?

Spoiler Alert: This post may contain information that one could deem spoilers, and, not just for this movie but for the other one, yes, you guessed it, Gone Girl

Before I Go To Sleep

If as some say Gone Girl is misogynist, then Before I Go to Sleep is the counter argument. Why of course, there’s a 50/50 chance that the villain is the female or the male character, and in some cases, both. And if it’s both, does that make the movie misanthropic?

So much about our humanity, which is what these crime suspense thrillers are all depicting, albeit in a more exaggerated way. Here is the movie adaptation of the very popular debut novel written by British writer S. J. Watson. Again, allow me to answer a question up front, book or movie first?

I know, there’s a likely chance that you have no intention to touch either, but here’s just an interesting thought, especially with the Gone Girl phenom still rippling. For this one, I’d say read the book first, mainly because if one goes to the movie unprepared, one would likely find the premise preposterous. A woman waking up every morning with no memory? But actually there are real-life cases which the author mentions in the epilogue of the book.

On the last page Watson notes that his novel, though totally fictitious, is inspired by actual medical cases, particularly that of Clive Wearing‘s, the British musicologist, conductor and BBC music producer, who has the same amnesiac condition, albeit his is an even shorter memory span, just a short minute or so.

Before I Go To Sleep is about a woman Christine (Nicole Kidman) who wakes up every morning with a total blank, forgetting who or where she is, and not knowing the person lying beside her in bed. He happens to be her husband Ben (Colin Firth), who has to explain to her every morning and reminds her who she is, and that an accident occurred fifteen years ago when she was 25 had left her in a state of amnesia with just a day’s memory span, but no matter, he tells her that he loves her.

Actually quite an interesting premise for a suspense thriller, the amnesiac as a vulnerable, ready victim. To add to the mystery, Christine receives a phone call from a Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) every morning after Ben leaves the house for work. He tells her he has been helping her and gets her to look for a camera in a shoe box hidden inside her closet. In there she can replay what she has recorded the night before, bits and pieces of her memories.

The movie is a graphic and more suspenseful enactment of the novel, directed by Rowan Joffe, who had written the screenplay and directed Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (2010). But I had found impressive his screenplay for The American (2010) which, under the direction of Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man, 2014), is one of the rare spy thriller that is soulful. Come to think of it, I can’t help but think such a collaboration, Joffe screenplay, Corbijn directs could have made Before I Go To Sleep a better movie.

As I had mentioned in my review of the novel Before I Go To Sleep, the major flaw of the book is that the author forgets that it’s his character who has amnesia, not his readers. So every chapter starts off with her reading more or less the same journal entry she wrote the night before is a bit too tedious.

Such a condition has been improved in the movie by Joffe, and with the convincing performance by Kidman, we are made sympathetic observers instead of being bored by the repetition. A video camera to jot her memory is also a better way to capture visual anguish than reading from a journal. Making the film more interesting than the novel are the flashbacks Christine has, the bits and pieces that she remembers. But then again, are those real memories or fragments of her imagination?

Colin Firth has shattered his Mr. Darcy persona for good. It is still a pleasure to watch him, albeit Darcy devotees and purists may find some scenes uncomfortable, faced with the revelation that O, Colin Firth is an actor, an impressive one yes, but not the real Mr. Darcy they love to keep in their memory.

This is a second partnership between Firth and Kidman, shortly after The Railway Man (2013). Their next collaboration will be the upcoming film Genius (2015), another book to movie adaptation to watch for.

Mark Strong is probably one of the most underrated actors today. He has been in so many movies, delivering strong performance… Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), plus many others and dating back to 1997, with Colin Firth in the first Fever Pitch (1997). Further, he’s my favourite Mr. Knightley in Emma (TV, 1996). His upcoming work is on my must-see list: The Imitation Game (2014).

Book to movie, here’s one that I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the movie more than the book, albeit it’s nothing more than leading and misleading, and slow revealing until the climatic end. Again I note, as with others of the crime and suspense genre, it’s not for everyone. But like Gone Girl, it has shoved to the forefront, domestic violence or violence of any sort involving the betrayal of trust, manipulation and self-gratification in dominance. Fortunately, this movie has a happier ending.

~ ~ 1/2 Ripples


Related Reviews on Ripple Effects:

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson Book Review

Gone Girl The Movie (2014)

The Railway Man Movie Review (2013)

The Railway Man Book Review 

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

3 thoughts on “Before I Go To Sleep (2014): Movie or Book?”

  1. I read the book some time ago, Arti, and though there’s violence at the end, I remember what a relief it was to know happy ending is in sight. Yes, I’m one who prefers happy resolved endings in my fiction 😉


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