Top 5... - January 6, 2015

Before I Go To Sleep (and five other films about memory)
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Before I Go To Sleep (and five other films about memory)

Directed by Rowan Joffe, the man who helmed 2010's remake of Brighton Rock and whose writing credits include 28 Weeks Later and The American, Before I Go To Sleep stars Nicole Kidman as an amnesiac named Christine. Following a traumatic incident in which she receives a head injury, Christine is left with anterograde amnesia, unable to retain new memories for more than one day at a time. In other words, every time she wakes up in the morning, she goes back to square one, not knowing where she is or, indeed, who the people around her are either.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by S. J. Watson, the film is a taut psychological thriller steeped in paranoia and intrigue, in which Christine wakes up each day and attempts to reconstruct her memory by the means of a video diary she has been keeping on the advice of her physician, Dr. Nasch, played here by Mark Strong. Each morning she wakes to find her husband Ben (Colin Firth) wearily explaining, where she is, why she is there and that they are married to each other. On the face of things, Ben seems to be just about the only reliable constant in her confusing life, but then one day she receives a call from her doctor that makes her suspect not all is as it seems. She learns that she was the victim of an attack, and that the identity of her assailant is unknown to everyone except her. Unfortunately, as the word 'amnesiac' would suggest, she doesn't remember who it was.

As new facts about her life begin to emerge, Christine's world becomes wracked with paranoia as she begins to doubt if those around her are telling her the truth. Joffe's film charts her quest to discover the truth about her attacker, and she soon realises that there is nobody in her life that she can trust.

Kidman does an excellent job as the amnesia-suffering protagonist, ably supported by Firth and Strong who also turn in some impressive performances, while there is also an appearance from former Shameless star Anne-Marie Duff as a person from Christine's past who may hold the key to what happened to her. Just as gripping as the novel it is based on, Before I Go To Sleep will keep you guessing right through to its conclusion.

Many films have covered the theme of memory and memory loss in a variety of different ways, so we thought we'd pick out five of the best of these while you're waiting for Joffe's new film to arrive in stores next week (Monday January 12th). You can also find the trailer for Before I Go To Sleep below...

 

Before I Go To Sleep - UK Trailer

 

Memento

Of all the other films that cover the subject of memory loss, Christopher Nolan's 2000 film Memento is probably the closest to Before I Go To Sleep in the sense that its protagonist Leonard Shelby suffers from the same type of amnesia, meaning he can remember everything about his life up to the point of the head injury that causes his condition, but cannot retain new memories beyond that point. Played by Guy Pearce, Leonard is an ex-insurance claim investigator whose last memory is one of his wife being raped and murdered. Determined to find his wife's killer and exact revenge, Leonard keeps track of facts and discoveries about the case by having them tattooed on his body. Knowing only that the killer is somebody called John G., Leonard searches for him with the help of his friend Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), also receiving assistance from a bartender he meets called Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). However, it soon becomes apparent that someone is taking advantage of him and using him to get rid of someone on their behalf. Pearce is brilliant in this film and the cleverly interwoven dual narrative is disorientating but utterly gripping. Highly recommended.

 

The Notebook

Based on the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks, Nick Cassavetes' heartbreaking film stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a young couple who fall in love during the early 1940s, although the story is told from the point of view of an elderly man (played by the late James Garner), who recounts the couple's story from his notebook to a fellow elderly resident at the retirement home where he lives (Gena Rowlands).
Noah (Gosling) is a young working class man who falls for the heiress of a wealthy family (McAdams), and it is, essentially, a love-against-all-odds story, but one with a twist. Without spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it or read the book, there isn't much more we can tell you, but we will say this: keep the tissues at the ready, this one will leave you choked up.

 

The Bourne Identity

Soon to return for a fourth instalment following director Paul Greengrass' reversal of his decision to call it a day on the Bourne saga, the trilogy of films starring Matt Damon as the highly skilled former government agent have been hugely popular, propelled along by its storyline featuring Jason Bourne's quest to discover his true identity after he loses his memory and finds himself the subject of a worldwide manhunt. It all began in 1980 with Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity, and although it had previously been adapted for a TV series in the late 1980s, Greengrass' adaptation for the big screen spawned a huge following and a franchise that looks set to run and run. In a complete reversal of the situation encountered by Nicole Kidman's character, Bourne suffers from retrograde amnesia, meaning his memory loss covers the period before a certain point, although his day-to-day memory functions normally and he clearly hasn't forgotten how to dish out an ass-kicking.

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Beginning his career as the drummer with French cold wave band Oui-Oui, for whom he also made quirky but brilliant music videos, Michel Gondry soon became one of the most sought-after directors for music promos, directing a string of iconic videos for the likes of Daft Punk, The White Stripes, Bjork and The Chemical Brothers, before directing his first full-length feature film in the form of 2001's Charlie Kaufman-penned Human Nature, but it's Gondry's sophomore outing, the beguiling Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that we've picked for our list of memory-related movies. Jim Carrey stars as Joel Barish, a heartbroken man who, on discovering that his girlfriend has undergone a procedure to have her memories of him removed, decides to repay the favour, but it's only when the pair have erased each other that they begin to realise how much they miss what they had. Also starring Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and David Cross, this is still one of our favourite Gondry films, and it should be one of yours too.

 

Mulholland Drive

David Lynch has never been one to make straightforward films, but of all his outings on the big screen 2001's Mulholland Drive must rank as one of the most maddeningly complex. Naomi Watts stars as both Betty Elms - an aspiring actress - and Diane Selwyn, a waitress. For the first two thirds of the film, Betty is the main protagonist, who travels to Hollywood to find fame and fortune, only to find herself embroiled in a strange conspiracy in which a woman is almost murdered and she befriends a girl named Rita (Laura Harring), who is suffering from amnesia following a car accident, but around two thirds of the way through the story seems to shift completely. Beyond that, the film's disorientating narrative is largely open to interpretation. One theory is that the first part of the film is essentially an extended dream sequence, where Betty eventually wakes to discover that she is just a failed actress waitressing in a Hollywood restaurant, but Lynch deliberately wrong-foots the viewer at several turns, with storylines appearing and then disappearing without trace. Our best advice is just to watch it and figure it out for yourselves, but don't blame us if by the end of it you find yourself doing a Keith Moon and launching your television out of a window.

 

 

More Articles

View All