Archive for the ‘Before I Go to Sleep (2014)’ Category

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Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Release Date: January 27, 2015

Region: Region A

Length: 92 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: An UltraViolet copy of the film is included with this disc. This title is also available on DVD.

Poster 1

“I was given a manuscript of the book, a proof by a television producer called Liza Marshall who I’ve worked with before. That’s actually really important, because when I got the manuscript, there was no cover. There was nothing to tell me that I was reading a thriller. So, I started reading what felt like the memoir of a woman with a brain injury. My mum had had a brain injury about 10 years earlier. So it felt like it was a straight drama in novel form. Slowly her paranoia became more prevalent and it turned out there really was a conspiracy. It was a complete shock to me because I didn’t know I was reading a thriller. From that moment, I was hooked. I was on holiday after making my first feature and I told my wife the story out loud, then and there, as soon as I put it down. I noticed a lot of the family had stopped splashing around [in the pool] and had come to listen because it’s such a good story.” -Rowan Joffé (Collider)

It is a good story and this is probably why it has been told so many times before.

Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth deliver excellent performances in this thriller based on a novel by S. J. Watson. Kidman plays Christine, a woman who wakes up every day remembering nothing, due to a mysterious accident in her past. When she begins piecing together certain aspects of her life, she uncovers secrets that leave her with no one she can trust.

Anterograde amnesia is a device that seems tailor made for the cinema. It is probably for this reason that Christopher Nolan made Memento fifteen years ago. Audiences have seen characters with this affliction in films ever since this incredible introduction to the concept. Adam Sandler tackled the subject matter in the ridiculous comedy, 50 First Dates (directed by Peter Segal). Scott Frank used the device in The Lookout.

Unfortunately, Before I Go to Sleep is only the latest film to employ this device. While the film is well constructed and diverting, audiences have the feeling that they have seen the film before (and they have). Immediately, we understand that there is going to be a twist ending. This would be readily apparent even if the marketing campaign didn’t announce that the film “features a shocking twist ending you will never see coming.” The trouble with the twist ending is that when the audience is expecting a twist ending, they are usually able to figure it out. Such is the case with Before I Go to Sleep. The viewer is in familiar territory, and the “surprise twist” that audiences “will never see coming” can be easily guessed shortly after the film begins. Unfortunately, this fact undermines the entire film.

This isn’t a flaw in the filmmaking. It is a flaw in S. J. Watson original novel. The concept itself is spent. Audiences evolve and it is important for the cinema to evolve with them. One wonders what this film would have felt like if it was made twenty years ago. Would critics hold it in the same esteem that they hold Nolan’s Memento? It is impossible to say. The fact is that it was made in 2014, and doesn’t offer the viewer a fresh spin on the material.

Critical reception of the film has been mostly negative, but there were several critics that enjoyed the film. Unfortunately for Rowan Joffé, the first few reviews set the standard for the other critics. The trades hated the film. Guy Lodge set the pace with his review for Variety on September 1, 2014.

Before I Go to Sleep is a risky title for a genre exercise intended to keep viewers bolt upright in their seats, handing mirthful critics a ready-made punch-line at the first sign of lethargy. The good news is that Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of S.J. Watson’s 2011 publishing phenom is far from a snooze; the bad news is that it’s the film’s escalating, po-faced ludicrousness that holds our attention…With David Fincher’s similarly targeted Gone Girl already siphoning its buzz, this dopey diversion will need the novel’s fans to turn out en masse to avoid being forgotten by morning…

…To unpick the numerous lapses in logic and credibility that keep this plot suspended — most of them, to be fair, inherited from the source novel, from which Joffe’s screenplay makes few drastic deviations — would be to enter severe spoiler territory…” -Guy Lodge (Variety, September 1, 2014)

Leslie Felperin also wrote a scathing review for The Hollywood Reporter that criticized everything from the directing to the acting.

“…This should generate fairly sweet box-office dreams in relation to its budget, but is unlikely to gain awards traction for either lead…

…As his last feature, Brighton Rock, proved, Joffe has something of a knack from coaxing bad performances from usually good actors. There’s less damage this time to the cast’s reputation, but still 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.

It’s a shame because this is exactly the kind of trashy read of a book that in the hands of the right director could have been elevated into something really special with its peculiarly female take on paranoia and anxieties about domesticity, aging, memory and identity.” -Leslie Felperin (The Hollywood Reporter, September 1, 2014)

Surprisingly, Stephanie Zacharek gave the film an extremely positive review in The Village Voice.

“…This is Joffe’s second film as a director — the first was the chilly little 2010 Graham Greene adaptation Brighton Rock — and he knows what he’s doing: If the story is a smidge predictable, at least the movie is pleasingly old-fashioned and grown-up, with a ’90s paranoid-thriller vibe.

Kidman, looking as fragile as one of those paper flowers that blooms in a glass of water, earns our compassion from the start…” -Stephanie Zacharek (The Village Voice, October 29, 2014)

Mick LaSalle also wrote an extremely positive review for the San Francisco Chronicle.

“ …Before I Go to Sleep is smartly constructed to keep an audience guessing at every moment. First we trust the husband, then the therapist, and back and forth at least two or three times. The husband is a little weird and withdrawn, but he’s played by Colin Firth, and with him that’s usually considered a good thing. Besides, anyone might become weird having to reintroduce himself to his panic-stricken wife every morning. Anyone might become stern and unemotional, repressed and slightly scowling — again, just like Colin Firth.

As for the therapist, he seems reasonable, but he’s played by Mark Strong, who is usually a villain, and his interest in his patient seems more than professional. He is clearly attracted to her, but is that so strange? Is that necessarily a bad thing?

These are the questions we ask ourselves, which are also the questions the woman is asking herself, and this cements a bond between the character and the audience. She is desperate to decide these matters, so she can attach a meaning to her life, which she has to do before she goes to sleep. The audience, meanwhile, is a little more patient than that. We just want her to get it right.

Considering the cast, the strong performances should come as no surprise. Looking back, every gesture makes sense and is consistent with the truth as revealed. Kidman, in particular, takes honors for her smart, un-showy work, conveying desperation with her eyes and terror in the way she refuses to trust anyone with her real emotion.” -Mick LaSalle (The San Francisco Chronicle, October 30, 2014)

Stephen Holden hated the film, but appreciated the performances.

“…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.” –Stephen Holden (New York Times, October 30, 2014)

Kyle Anderson felt that the film was excellent, but disliked the saccharine ending. He gave the film a “B” in Entertainment Weekly.

“…Before I Go to Sleep [is] a well-constructed mystery full of pitch-black turns that disappointingly deflates by the end… Writer/director Rowan Joffe, who also made the taut crime family biography Brighton Rock, uses Kidman to excellent effect. Even at her most centered and calm, Kidman grants Christine a perpetual internal desperation…

…After a series of gut-wrenching revelations, the back-door redemption at the end feels tacked-on and cheap. Sleep is 91 minutes of delightfully twisted tension and three minutes of eye-rolling treacle. Kidman and Firth are both excellent in their sadness and savagery, and Joffe builds tension far better than most of the horror movies available at your local Cineplex this Halloween weekend. If only he had quit while he was ahead. -Kyle Anderson (Entertainment Weekly, November 5, 2014)

Most viewers will probably enjoy the film enough to recommend a rental. It isn’t “destined to be a classic,” but it is diverting.

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in the standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork, and the case is protected by a slipcover showcasing the same artwork.

The discs menu features footage from the film filtered through a white haze, and is enhanced with music from the film.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The 1080p AVC codec transfer is really quite excellent. Sharpness is outstanding, and showcases textures that are surprisingly clear. Color is always accurate (except for intentional over saturation during flashback scenes), and contrast is always wonderfully rendered. There isn’t really any room for complaint here.

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also wonderful. While the track seems to keep to the front throughout, there are significant diversions to this rule. The mixing seems appropriate for this film, which is really the most important thing (although certain audiophiles might prefer something a bit more robust). Dialogue is consistently clear, and given proper priority in the mix. Edward Shearmur’s music isn’t given a very dynamic mix, but there is room for it to breathe here, and it sounds wonderful.

Special Features:

2 of 5 Stars

Forget Me Not – (2:26) –

Forget Me Not is nothing more than a trailer that includes interviews with the three principal members of the cast. It is nice to have here, but one shouldn’t expect much.

Character Illusions: Ben – (0:47) –

Character Illusions: Ben functions as a promotional trailer that includes short interview clips with Colin Firth. These same clips can be seen in Forget Me Not. This is more like a teaser, because these clips are not at all enlightening. They are actually somewhat misleading.

Character Illusions: Christine – (0:47) –

Character Illusions: Christine functions as a promotional trailer that includes short interview clips with Nicole Kidman. These same clips can be seen in Forget Me Not. This is more like a teaser, because these clips are not at all enlightening. They are actually somewhat misleading.

Character Illusions: Dr. Nasch – (0:50) –

Character Illusions: Dr. Nasch functions as a promotional trailer that includes short interview clips with Nicole Kidman. These same clips can be seen in Forget Me Not. This is more like a teaser, because these clips are not at all enlightening. They are actually somewhat misleading.

Theatrical Trailer – (2:07) –

The theatrical trailer is put together with much of the same footage that is used in the previous supplements. The actual trailer is actually superior to the other promos included on the disc.

Final Words:

Before I Go to Sleep will keep you entertained on a rainy day, but it will never be anything more than a decent diversion. People seeking excellence should probably look elsewhere. However, it is certainly recommended if you are a fan of any of the three principal actors. It has been given a nice Blu-ray release that exhibits excellent picture and sound transfers. This film doesn’t really require an abundance of supplemental material, so the lack of any significant special features can be forgiven. However, one does miss the days when special features were actually special.

Review by: Devon Powell