Psychological thriller set in Snæfellsnes, ICELAND
Film and novel set in London (a ‘dourly lively amnesia film’)
1st October 2014
Until I go to sleep by S J Watson. We review the film and novel set in London.
Great acting talent, Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Mark Strong in the roles of Ben. Christine and Dr Nash, respectively, in a claustrophobic set-up based on what? Fear, lack of knowledge, distance or some frisson of subterfuge. Nicole Kidman gets into her very English role, as she plays a woman who has lost her memory, and every day wakes up from the same starting point: she has no memory. She has to rely on her husband Ben to guide her through each day and help her reconnect with her past history.
Dr Nash is a specialist neuropsychologist who has taken on her case and he encourages her to keep a daily video diary so that she can visually connect with yesterday, the day before that and the day before that. Kidman is excellent at portraying the fear and volatile feelings that must come with not being able to recall one’s very own history – after all each individual has his/her own unique history, wipe that out and what do you have left? Dr Nash is also keen that Christine should not share her dealings with him with husband Ben. This, in time causes her to vacillate between the men in her life, and which one is really being true to her and her situation. And both men are well cast to evoke maximum creepiness.
The film does credit to the book where Christine’s pervading and unsettled mental stability moves the plot along and with each new discovery, she becomes both more confused, yet gets glimmers of lucidity. In the book she keeps a written diary, which Roland Joffé, the director, transmutes into the visual medium of a video diary using a Lumix camera.
Both film and book are set in London, the book portrays a rather grey and cold London, the film is very much an autumnal/winter ‘brown’ London that feels slightly warmer. Both have a quintessentially London feel and whether it is taking tea in the park, or admiring the vista over Canary Wharf, you just know it is London, England.
There is a huge nod in the film, several times over, to the iconic cover, where there is a watchful, single eye – we have close-ups of Kidman’s eye on innumerable occasions, which, with red veins and all is a bit too much on the big screen.
Having enjoyed the book despite its rather preposterous concept, this ‘dourly lively amnesia film’ (thank you Mark Kermode for describing it so succinctly) will entertain, it will feel familiar, and it will feel as though Hitchcock has been waiting in the wings with a few birds – and yes, just as in Psycho, running water in showers features quite a lot. Whichever medium you choose to explore this story, the endings are the same, so be prepared for a bit of an anti-climax.
And finally, I thought I would share this little notice at the entrance to the cinema. It made me smile and grimace all at the same time. Ah, truly wistful for the days of learning the correct endings….