There’s a reason that amnesia is so often used as a storytelling trope: it not only offers a straightforward outline for a mystery tale as the protagonist tries to learn about their past and how they lost their memory in the first place; it also means that backstory and exposition can be spread out over the course of the story as new facts are gradually uncovered. Not to mention, it also provides plenty of opportunity for twist endings.
Perhaps the best known example of anterograde amnesia in cinema to date is Christopher Nolan’s film Memento, which was told using a mix of chronological and reverse chronological sequences that left a lot of viewers scratching their heads after the initial viewing. Now it’s Nicole Kidman’s turn to face the perils of memory loss in Before I Go to Sleep, a new thriller executive produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Rowan Joffé (Brighton Rock).
Kidman plays Christina Lucas, a woman suffering from anterograde amnesia after being brutally attacked and receiving several blows to the head. Her condition means that every time she goes to sleep she will wake up stripped of all her memories, and must reassemble her past every day. She is reliant upon the help of her husband Ben (Colin Firth) and a specialist called Dr. Nash (Mark Strong) – but as Christine tries to gather the facts, she begins to suspect that what she has been told is not necessarily the truth.
Before I Go to Sleep is based on the debut novel of the same name by writer S.J. Watson. It certainly has a lot of potential to create parallels between the movie’s premise and the traditional structure of mystery and crime stories, which will often erase everything that was previously assumed to be true for the sake of pulling the rug out from under the reader or viewer.
The script for Before I Go to Sleep was also written by Joffé, who is currently best known as the screenwriter behind movies like The American and 28 Weeks Later. With a strong trio of actors at its heart, Before I Go to Sleep definitely looks worth watching for fans of mystery thrillers.
Before I Go to Sleep is out in theaters on 12th September, 2014.