'Before I Go to Sleep': What the Critics Are Saying

Rowan Joffe's sci-fi thriller casts Nicole Kidman as an amnesia victim whose brain resets back to thirteen years ago after each night's sleep, opposite Colin Firth and Mark Strong

Before I Go to Sleep, out Friday, casts Nicole Kidman as an amnesia victim whose brain resets back to thirteen years ago after each night's sleep. Writer-director Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of S.J. Watson’s bestseller reunited Kidman with her co-star in The Railway Man, Colin Firth, as well as Mark Strong.

Scott Free, Millennium and StudioCanal partnered on the British sci-fi thriller, distributed by Clarius Entertainment in the U.S.

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Read what top critics are saying about Before I Go to Sleep:

The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin says Joffe "honors the lurid spirit of the page-turner enough to satisfy fans, but he doesn’t transmute the material into something richer and deeper the way, say, Alfred Hitchcock could, despite the film’s many Hitchcockian nods." Unfortunately, "Joffe has something of a knack from coaxing bad performances from usually good actors," and "he shows a singular lack of originality when it comes to the thriller mechanics, falling back on huge soundtrack surges to generate shocks and suspense, and leaving cinematographer Ben Davis and production designer Kave Quinn to do the heavy lifting when it comes to building atmosphere."

While Kidman "has played this sort of vulnerable woman-on-the-edge many times before," "it can be said that one of the film’s minor virtues is how it plays with casting, exploiting expectations audiences have around actors like Strong and Firth. It works especially well with Firth, who in the semiotics of British cinema especially is the very apogee of cuddly male rectitude and moral probity. Here, however, he shows off a dark side that’s shocking even for viewers who have read the book already."

The New York Times' Stephen Holden calls it "preposterous" as it "doesn't have an ounce of levity." Kidman "gives the role all she’s got and practically drowns in her own tears as sad new facts come to light, and Firth proves he can play nasty as well as nice. If it weren’t for the diligent performances of its stars, who inject some emotional depth into this bogus claptrap, Before I Go to Sleep would be an unwatchable, titter-inducing catastrophe."

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Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein notes it as "a handsomely made, often intriguingly twisty thriller, it feels like awfully familiar business. ... If it weren't for its fine star turn by Nicole Kidman, this memory-loss tale might be entirely, well, forgettable." Joffe "takes such a somber, measured approach, viewers may feel more lulled than stirred. ... The plot is hardly airtight — at times the holes are downright gaping — and viewers will likely have their fair share of questions once the film's final corner is turned."

The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan sees it as "the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. Unfussy and somewhat old-fashioned, this red-meat thriller is a dish formed from familiar ingredients — Sex! Violence! Amnesia! — served with a side of starchy adherence to formula. It probably isn’t good for you, but it ain’t half bad either." Despite plot gaps, "Kidman and Firth lend the pulpy material a certain prestige, even if Strong comes across as simply another plot device (and a perplexing one at that)," and Joffe "tells the story with a brisk efficiency."

The Guardian's Henry Barnes considers it "a joyless reverse Groundhog Day, or a treacly Memento. There's a lot of repetition of the fairly simple premise with little progression. ... It aims for sexy and/or dangerous, but the tone is dry and the pace lags. Joffe stretches for Polanski or Hitchcock, but his suspense is undercooked and his plot flails when it should twist."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee