Before I Go To Sleep

By Di Golding

Mailed on October 31, 2014

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Dear Laurie Sparham
Stills Photographer

Dear Laurie,

Your resume is a veritable list of British cinema's greatest hits: Shakespeare In Love, Dirty Pretty Things, The Queen, and The King's Speech—just to name a few. Your still photographs are used as reference material for production, promotions, and, in this case, as props in the film. Even though you've shot some of the most famous people in the world for some of the most renowned producers and directors, your job doesn't really change. In fact, you were the only person behind the camera of this film who was actually supposed to deliver a predictable product.

Before I Go To Sleep is yet another wannabe sex-thriller with the kind of maddeningly vague premise that studios love because it gives the audience absolutely nothing to go on, thereby nullifying any expectations.

Christine wakes up every day with no knowledge of her past. As she struggles to piece together her existence, terrifying memories start flooding back and she begins to fear the very people she is supposed to trust. If I didn't know any better, I'd imagine someone pitched Before I Go To Sleep as 50 First Dates meets Memento (right before they cackled like a hyena and slammed an eight-ball on the conference table). Unfortunately for Before I Go To Sleep, audiences have been trained to ferret out the surprise twist in every suspense flick made since Haley Joel Osment got hair in his bathing suit area. And these days they're savvy enough to know that the plot holes shouldn't be bigger than the twists.

Your work shows up early on. Christine awakens, as she does every morning, scared and bewildered beside a man she doesn't recognize. Fleeing to the bathroom, she sees a photo collage of herself and the man in happier times. I was confused too, mostly because I couldn't understand why Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth were in a Lifetime movie. Your photos told us the story of a couple who were once in love before "the accident" caused Christine's amnesia. We see them, smiling adoringly on their wedding day, smiling adoringly on vacation, smiling adoringly in a park. They looked just like the pictures that come with the frame when you buy it, and, sure enough, their characters turn out to be just as flimsy. Kidman's perpetually open-mouthed confused-face runs the gamut from "Did I leave the oven on?"-concern to "Did I leave the oven on?"-panic.

Poor Colin Firth just looks like he wants to slide back in that picture frame.

Of course there's a camera hidden in a shoebox in the back of a closet, and of course Christine finds it. Her doctor calls her every morning to remind her to take it out and film herself in order to build up a memory bank of sorts that she uses to replace her missing long term memories. At this point I was wishing I had lost my long term memory, too. That way, the shots of the dank underground parking lot, the Kubrickian hotel hallway, and the desolate industrial park with the creepy mannequin warehouse would have seemed fresh and inspired. Like I expected, this film has many questions, like: "Does Christine have a secret child?", or "Can she trust her husband or her doctor?" and, most important to me, "Am I going to remember any of this movie before I go to sleep?"

It's not unusual for someone in your line of work to go through several rolls of film (or SD cards, I guess) trying to get the one shot you need. When I was a model very briefly in the pre-photoshop days, a photographer made me jump off the same fence post repeatedly in order to get that "perfect shot." He told me officiously: "A great picture isn't taken, it's given." As my tired body involuntarily launched itself off that wooden perch for the hundredth time, I remember thinking, "What a jag-off." But now I kind of get it. Sometimes you have to do the same thing over and over in order to achieve a desired result. But what's the point of doing something that's already been done if you can't do it better?



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