Before I Go to Sleep (2014)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Rowan Joffe
Run Time
1 hour

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 32  min.

Our Content ratings (0-10): Violence 6; Language 3; Sex/Nudity 5Our star rating (0-5): 4

 Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

Isaiah 49:15

Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every morning and does not recognize the man sleeping next to her, even though his arm draped across her. She goes into the bathroom and discovers one wall plastered with photos of her and the man. They are grouped into sections, one with the hand written note reading “Wedding.”

“I’m Ben, your husband,” the man (Colin Firth) tells her when she goes back into the bedroom. Writer-director Rowan Joffe, adapting S.J. Watson’s novel, provides us with an hour and a half escape guaranteed to make us forget our own troubles. Ben explains to Christine that she is suffering from a rare amnesia in which each night she forgets almost everything. She begins each day with a clean slate. 14 years earlier, he explains, she was involved in an accident that robbed her of her memory. As he gets ready for work he shows her a list of things to do for the day. “You like to keep busy,” he says, with a note of sadness in his voice.

Soon after Ben departs Christine’s cellphone rings. The voice at the other end says that he is Dr. Nash (Mark Strong), a neuropsychologist who is treating her without her husband’s knowledge. Following his instructions, she goes to the bottom drawer in her closet and finds a shoebox with a camera in it. Each day she has been recording her observations of the day so that she can see them the next day—sort of a visual form of dropping seeds behind while entering a dark cave with winding passages. When she meets with the doctor she is surprised to learn that her amnesia was not caused by an accident, but by a vicious attack on her by an unknown assailant. Only she knows who it was, he tells her.

The story grows more complicated with each new day. Not only does Christine learn that Ben has been lying to her about the cause of her condition. He has also kept secret that she is a mother, and that their son is dead. Flashes of the terrible night start to come back to her—images of her crawling, her head bloodied, along a hallway; the unclear image of part of a man’s face; her being dragged back toward the room.

There are plenty of surprises and much suspense as the pieces of the mystery start to come together in Christine’s mind. At the beginning Nicole Kidman convincingly portrays a meek woman confused and fearful, but as the days go by and she adds to her video diary, she grows more assertive—and suspicious of both men. Firth and Strong are such consummate actors that they convince us either could be the hero or the villain.

Such films—remember Memento? —remind us again how important memory is to our identity. In a digital Bible go through word searches for “memory” and “forget,” and you will see how important these are for the Judeo-Christian faith as well. Both the prophets and the writers of the Psalms urge the people to remember the might deeds of God in Egypt and in the wilderness—or else they condemn them for forgetting them. The primary basis of the holiest of celebrations—The Passover and The Lord’s Supper—call for us to remember a special night when God brought liberation to the world through death. Christine’s struggle for her memory is thus her struggle to regain her very identity. It is a struggle you will not soon forget.

This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the Dec. 2014 issue of Visual Parables.

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