Before I Go To Sleep
Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up
every day remembering nothing. She
wakes up in bed with a man who claims to be her husband, and tries to
re-assure her that she is fine, she was just the victim of a terrible accident
several years ago. Christine
struggles to believe what he is saying, then wonders why she doesn’t.
And why she feels afraid.
After he leaves for work, she
receives a phone call, from a Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), who says he’s been
treating her so that she can overcome her trauma.
This intrigues her enough that she finds the camera he says she has
hidden in her “wardrobe” (closet), and when she plays what’s recorded
there, she finds a video of herself, obviously crying and upset, trying to
tell herself things that she has remembered, but is afraid she’ll forget
again once she sleeps. This
encourages her enough to go visit with Dr. Nasch to find out more, but she
feels somewhat ambivalent about him, also:
there seems to be some emotional connection here,
and not just professional distance between client and therapist.
Christine, desperate to find
someone else in her life who might help her search for clues to her identity,
is told about a son, Adam, who died, which grieves her terribly, and she is
able to recall distant memories of her cuddling a baby, but what happened
after that? And then there are
occasionally snippets of memory about a good friend, Claire (Anne-Marie Duff),
but then when we finally meet her, we discover something else to be ambivalent
admits having had an affair with Ben, but only after Christine had first had
an affair that had damaged her marital relationship.
Now we’re all confused.
So somehow we have to rely on the main characters to navigate us
through this morass, and hope we find some clarity somewhere.
It would all be a frustrating visual experience,
except that Nicole Kidman, in the lead role, is a good enough actress to just
draw us in to her personal dilemma.
She and Colin Firth play off each other
marvelously, as he plays the gentle husband, alternately calm and assuring,
and then visibly upset about recalling a happier past.
But it turns out that her being frightened around
him might be more than just uncertainty, it might be the leftover instinct
from some really bad experiences.
As for Dr. Nasch, well, he, too,
seems to be calm and re-assuring, and she seems to have a good vibe about him,
but why would he tell her that she doesn’t need to say anything about him to
her husband? What does he have to hide?
And how is she going to figure any of this out
for herself, when she has to start all over again the next day?
Yes, they all take the viewer for
a ride. And it’s not a fun one, from
the standpoint of happily ever after.
But it’s a bit of dramatic theater (with
limited cast, sets, and costumes) that keeps us guessing about the characters
until the end. As
for the experience of watching it, it’s like enjoying being lost in a maze.
The frustration is the fun.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,