The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every day thinking that she’s 15 years younger than her actual age. She doesn’t recognize the man lying next to her. The 40-year-old in the mirror doesn’t look right. She’s not even sure where she is. Not unlike Guy Pearce’s memorable lead in “Memento,” Christine has psychogenic amnesia. She was in a car accident over a decade ago. Since that day, she has rebooted after every night’s sleep. She doesn’t remember anything that happened the day before, and only gets occasional flashes of memory of the past 14 years. Her husband Ben (Colin Firth) has to go through the same routine every morning, helped by photos on the bathroom wall with Post-Its like “Ben, Your Husband.” Each day, Ben explains Christine’s predicament to her, as he goes to work and she sits around the house, waiting for the next night’s restart button.
From the very beginning of “Before I Go to Sleep,” this premise feels faulty, at best. As directed by Rowan Joffe (“Brighton Rock”), the opening scenes make it clear that this is not a film with actual characters or relatable people within it. There’s no exhaustion in Ben’s voice, as there would be having done this routine every single day. Everything about the moment reeks of manipulative set-up instead of something real, and that feeling that you’re being as played with as Christine herself. “Before I Go to Sleep” is a movie with nothing to hold on to but a paper-thin mystery with really only one of two possible suspects in the end.
As you can guess, there’s more to Christine’s story than Ben’s initial explanation. After her husband leaves for work, she gets a call from Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), a neuropsychologist who has been working with her for the past few weeks. He tells her to find the digital camera in the back of her wardrobe. She’s been recording revelations every day, reminding herself of what she’s discovered about Ben, her “accident” and more. She hasn’t lost her memory from a car accident. She was brutally attacked. By whom? Why? And what else is Ben keeping from her? How much could you trust someone who you think is a stranger even if he tells you he’s not?
Of course, every question in a film like this has an answer. It’s a screenwriting exercise more than a film. It’s hollow, the kind of quick beach read that could satisfy on a summer vacation (and was based on such a book) but Joffe hasn’t justified transitioning it to the big screen. There’s no edge, no pulp, no grit under its fingernails.
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