Latest Blog Posts
Wildwood Fire ReviewBy Ezekiel McAdams   &n

Get Connected

August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Memory Mystery

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday October 30, 06:54 pm
Before I Go to Sleep is an unapologetically adult whodunit

Before I Go to Sleep

Cineplex

3/5

The second Nicole Kidman-Colin Firth joint venture in less than a year (the other was the unexpectedly solid The Railway Man), Before I Go to Sleep is a small, effective thriller that benefits from the fact there’s nothing else like it currently in the multiplex. It’s unapologetically adult, and features leads who are long past their pinup days, so it’s rather impressive the film is getting a wide release.

Based on the very popular novel by S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep is a memory-loss mystery that’s even more emotionally loaded than Memento. Thanks to a beating she suffered at the hands of an unknown assailant, Christine (Kidman) wakes every morning with no memory of her past, meaning her husband Mike (Colin Firth) has to recap the major events of her life on a daily basis. (Think Adam Sandler with Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, but serious.)

What her husband doesn’t know is that Christine has been seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), with promising results. Nasch gives her a camera, so she can rebuild her past on her own terms. Soon, Christine’s flashes of memory indicate her husband might be editing out big chunks of her life — but then again, the shrink seems a bit too involved, and could have his own agenda. Clearly, someone isn’t telling the truth — but who?

By paring the original story down to the three main characters, Before I Go to Sleep maintains control of a plot that easily could have branched out in too many directions. Audience sympathy moves from Mike to Nasch and back to Mike in the span of seconds, and it’s never clear who’s pulling the strings.

Director Rowan Joffe (who wrote the underrated 28 Weeks Later and The American) manipulates the audience by exploiting the screen personas that Firth and Strong have become associated with over the years. The latter has made a career of portraying villains (Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and, er, Kick-Ass), while Firth was the ultimate Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Who are you going to believe? Are you being played?

The main conflict is carried out effectively (there are a few plot holes, but they’re not particularly distracting), but the movie also expects the audience to be invested emotionally — and that’s where it slips, if only a bit. I won’t spoil the reason that inspires Christine to push forward, but I can tell you it lacks originality. And Kidman, for all her virtues as an actor, has to go above and beyond to be even mildly sympathetic.

Kidman seems to be choosing meatier, riskier roles in smaller productions as she enters the mature phase of her career. (Her last “big” movie, Grace of Monaco, crashed and burned abroad.) That’s not a bad way to proceed, given the difficulties female actors of her age all too often deal with in Hollywood — and especially if she continues to choose quality movies like this.

 

Honeymoon

Roxy

3.5/5

Scary movies set in the middle of nowhere have been a horror cliché since roughly forever — and one that you might’ve thought was thoroughly demolished by the devastatingly fierce deconstruction of the trope offered up by 2012’s The Cabin In The Woods.

The makers of Honeymooncouldn’t care less — and good for them.

This Canadian horror flick gets a lot of mileage from the setup by mixing body horror and growing paranoia with relatable concerns (such as, “Why is my wife acting so weird?”).

Newlyweds Bea (Rose Leslie, Game of Thrones) and Paul (Harry Treadaway, Penny Dreadful) are young, hip and untroubled by social conventions. They choose a sleepy Québec town as their honeymoon destination, but the trendy pick takes a dark turn when Bea disappears briefly one night. After her return, Paul picks up on some increasingly alarming behaviours from his wife: Malapropisms, defensiveness and memory loss, for example.

Honeymoon does several things right, starting with the leads. Bea and Paul are sympathetic characters, and the brief period in which both the husband’s suspicions and the information available allows for reasonable doubt has more poignancy than most genre films.

As the film progresses, uncertainty turns to dread. The denouement is fairly traditional (a mix of The Exorcist, Invasion of the Body Snatchersand other classics), but no less effective: even with all the cards laid on the table, there’s no solution in sight. The bleakness lingers in Honeymoon —a testimony to strong turns by Leslie and Treadaway and savvy direction by newcomer Leigh Janiak.

If you’re a horror fan, this is well worth your time.

 

White Bird in a Blizzard

Roxy (opens Friday 7)

2.5/5

Writer/director Gregg Araki operates in two worlds. The one he feels most comfortable with is a heightened reality where apathetic teens try to forge a connection, blissfully unaware of the dangers lurking around them. The movies that result are generally entertaining (The Doom Generation, Nowhere, Kaboom), but interchangeable and repetitive.

Araki is much better in his second world, when he goes gritty (Mysterious Skin), but he only does it occasionally.

With White Bird in a Blizzard, Araki aims to find a sweet spot between the two. The outcome is off the mark, but it does allow Shailene Woodley (Divergent) to explore her darker side, and Eva Green to deliver another classic campy performance.

Woodley is Kat, a teenager still coming to terms with her transition from mousy girl to desirable young woman. The transformation weighs on her, but it ranks third or fourth among her problems — chief among them being the disappearance of her mother (Green, channeling Joan Crawford). Sure, her mom was emasculating, venomous and childishly competitive, but the loss is bound to haunt Kat’s coming-of-age years.

Far from Woodley’s trademark role as a good girl coping with some tragedy, Kat is in full control of her sexuality. Her decisions may be questionable (like an affair with the cop looking for her mother) but they’re unequivocally hers.

Often, White Bird in a Blizzard feels like David Lynch lite: Araki’s depiction of suburbia — a deceptively safe environment with skewed priorities — owes much to Blue Velvet, for example. Unfortunately, the surrealism doesn’t stick, and the second half of the film unfolds perfunctorily.

There’s also seeming confusion amongst the cast as to exactly what type of movie they’re making. While Woodley, Green and Thomas Jane (as the detective) are clearly in on the joke, the rest of the cast plays it straight (the token best friends are especially bad). The wildly uneven result becomes distracting, but there are enough bright spots to justify White Bird’s existence.

Back to TopShare/Bookmark