The second directorial offering from Joffe, following 2010's passable but almost entirely unnecessary Brighton Rock remake, Before I Go to Sleep is nothing if not a huge backwards step for the greenhorn British director. Lumbered with the job of adapting a readily disposable summer read (if one with an admittedly large fanbase), Joffe applies the bare minimum of verve and panache required to lift Watson's hackneyed story of amnesia off the page, only throwing in the odd hallucinatory effect when his film is at its most in need of a personality injection. There's a tangible feeling of lethargy to the entire project, from the clunk of narrative cogs as Kidman's Christine unravels the thin web of lies that envelops her to Firth's unintentionally amusing shifts between fawning puppy dog and potential threat (cue shots of Firth's Ben chopping vegetables as ominously as physically possible), all carried off with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
In support, Duff and Strong do their best with the almost entirely thankless roles they're given, though in truth the function of the former - as best friend/love rival Claire - is little beyond that of a glorified plot device and the latter's softly-spoken medical practitioner would be struck of in an instant for some of his more 'alternative' therapeutic methods (ad hoc sedatives, anyone)? On the whole, die-hard fans of Watson's frothy source novel may miraculously manage to eke a slither of enjoyment from Joffe's labouring 'psychological thriller' - to use the term extremely loosely - but for everyone else Before I Go to Sleep is another uninspired translation of a book that probably didn't warrant one in the first place. David Fincher's take on Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (2014), arriving on UK screens in a few weeks time following its grand New York Film Festival world premiere, looks a far meatier proposition.