BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP feels like a callback to Nicole Kidman's work in the early '90s—except with more crying and less thriller-ing. It's a slight film that uses the cinematic chestnut of amnesia to send one woman on a journey to figure out what the hell happened to scramble her memory, and like the amnesiac mysteries of Memento it trots out the old bonked-on-the-noggin trope. The end results are far less exciting.
Christine (Kidman) and her bloodshot eyes wake up confused. She crawls out of bed from under a sleeping man and wanders to the bathroom where she finds a photo collage that shows that the sleeping man is her longtime husband, Ben (Colin Firth). He wakes to tell her that, a confusing number of years ago, she was in a terrible accident. Now her damaged brain cleans house every night, wiping her memories every time she sleeps. (Try not sleeping all the time, Christine.) Another morning ritual: She receives a daily phone call from her therapist, Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), who guides her to a secret video diary in her closet. From the footage, she relearns what she learned the previous day, like such tidbits as Ben seems to be fond of lying, her therapist might not be such an ethical dude, and maybe that brain bonk wasn't strictly an accident. The mysteries unfurl; the sobbing commences.
The wetworks make sense: Reliving every loss, regret, and mistake you've ever made every single day would be a real feelings-maker. And Kidman's turn as fragile Christine—a role that could be cloying in clumsier hands—is sensitive and smart. But with this much weeping and all these raw emotions, watching Christine and her tabula rasa mind get get jerked around starts to feel like watching a baby bird get tortured. We never glimpse her old, independent self, only this helpless, hollowed-out husk with no mind and no memory. Let's not make Nicole Kidman cry ever again.