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Reviews: Before I Go to Sleep, The Guest, Life of Crime, and Attlia Marcel

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Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in Before I Go To Sleep

Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in Before I Go To Sleep

Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in Before I Go To Sleep

The rotund shadow of Alfred Hitchcock looms large over Before I Go to Sleep, a stylish but oddly lifeless British thriller based on a novel by SJ Watson.

There are touches of Spellbound, shades of Dial M for Murder, but none of the sophistication and impish wit that Hitch brought to those and all his films. Nicole Kidman, in any case, is Christine Lucas, a woman who wakes up to find a strange man in bed with her.

Quietly and patiently, he explains that he's her husband, Ben (Colin Firth), that she's lost her long-term memory due to an accident, and has to be reminded who she is every single morning. On the morning we meet her, the phone rings after Ben has gone to work and a man called Dr Nash (Mark Strong) explains that he's a psychiatrist and has been treating her for some weeks.

Nash tells her about a hidden camera that she's been using to keep a video diary. And when she starts watching her recordings, she becomes uneasy about her husband's controlling behaviour and begins to suspect he's hiding something.

Before I Go to Sleep establishes its premise nicely, and director Rowan Joffé builds an appropriately woozy aesthetic. The acting's fine but the thriller falls slightly when it comes time to explain everything. Only Hitchcock can do Hitchcock.

3 STARS

Eighties B movies are all the rage at the minute, and younger directors are constantly paying homage to them. An odd obsession if you ask me, but at least Adam Wingard's The Guest does a fantastic job of it. His film is formulaic, but knowingly so, and Wingard executes his lean storyline with plenty of style and wit.

Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey plays a soldier who turns up on the doorstep of the Peterson family home. David Collins explains to Mrs Peterson that he was in Afghanistan with her late son, Caleb, who died in action. She asks him in, and soon the dashing young man is bonding with her, her husband, and their young son. Only their 20-year-old daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) is suspicious, and while her parents refuse to listen to her, they really should.

4 STARS

Life of Crime is the umpteenth film to be based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, and its plot can be neatly summarised by that terrible old vaudeville joke 'Take my wife - please!'. Jennifer Aniston plays Mickey Dawson, the glamorous but unloved spouse of Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins), a boorish businessman.

Minor criminals Ordell (Mos Def) and Louis (the excellent John Hawkes) decide to kidnap Mickey. But things get complicated when Louis falls for Mickey, and they find out that Frank couldn't care less what they do to her. Life of Crime is competently made and has some decent jokes early on, but we've seen this stuff done many times before, and done better.

3 STARS

Attila Marcel is equally flawed, but rather more original. Guillaume Gouix is Paul De Cressac, a 33-year-old mute who plays the piano like a dream and lives with his crazy, smothering aunts. His parents died when he was two, and Paul has suppressed all his memories before and since. But when a kindly, eccentric downstairs neighbour begins treating him with hallucinogenic tea, he experiences a series of startling revelations.

Self-consciously eccentric, mildly surreal, the film includes bizarre soft focus flashbacks that take the form of cheesy songs. They go on a bit, but Attila Marcel is not without its moments, and a film that contains both penis and Proust jokes might be worth investigating.

3 STARS

Irish Independent