Thursday, 11 September 2014

Before I Go To Sleep - book versus film

I've read S J Watson's novel Before I Go To Sleep not once but twice and been eagerly waiting to see the film adaptation for what seems like years! The release date seems to have been pushed back time and again, but at last it's here on the big screen and I've seen it!

Firstly, if you don't know the plot, it's the tale of Christine, a woman who wakes every morning with no recollection of the past 18 years. It isn't all sweetness and light and cuteness like 50 First Dates though, this is more about the ways in which a person with no recollection of yesterday can be manipulated. Pretty early on, the reader discovers that her husband isn't being entirely honest with her about the past, and from there the tension builds with doubt as to who (husband or therapist) is misleading Christine and why..

So how did the adaptation do....
well, surprisingly close to the book. I always worry that a director will take a book I've loved and turn it into something hardly recognisable but fortunately Rowan Joffe didn't. I just think at times events moved too quickly, placing more emphasis on the action and violence than the psychological tension (perhaps that's hard to show on camera though).
Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth played their roles as I'd expected - Kidman looking less glamorous than usual and pulling off the Mrs Average look, while Firth turned in a surprsingly-good 'bad guy' (the ladies in the row behind us were shocked!). The only puzzle was the rather odd change to Mark Strong's character Dr Nash that made him older and altered the dynamic of the relationship between him and Kidman's Christine.

I think the thing most missing from the film was how terrifying it must be to have no memory of so many years, to have no way of being certain that people are telling you the truth

My main criticisms were actually niggly little things - I'd imagined a different sort of house, maybe on a London street near the Outnumbered TV family, not out in the countryside; I didn't understand why change the hotel's location from Brighton to an airport. On the other hand, I did like the change of Christine's notebook diary into a video recording - definitely worked better on screen, though a diary could have been shown as flashbacks.

Overall a great adaptation although I still prefer the book. I missed Christine's internal monologue which gives the reader a better guide to her thoughts and the terror she feels at haven't no memory and no way to be certain of what she is told. The film is only 90 minutes long, so maybe it could have taken a few extra minutes and explored this area more.

5 stars to the book, 4 for the film.

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