Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot details we can’t reveal in our review.
There’s so much for Christine to catch up on: Ben’s affair with her best friend, Claire (Anne-Marie Duff), which is why Claire hasn’t come around to visit her in years; their son’s tragic death at age 8 from meningitis; the strain of her condition, which led Ben to divorce her years ago; his return to selflessly care for her, despite everything. It’s all so Nicholas Sparks, wrapped up with a heartfelt profession of love that is read to the audience in the trustworthy, quivering voice of Colin Firth.
But then Claire—with whom Christine has secretly re-connected—calls and asks, “What does Ben look like?” How tall is he? Does he have black hair? What about the scar on his cheek, the one from the skiing accident? Where is your house? Because she’s spoken to Ben—the real Ben, Christine’s ex-husband, who is raising their very-much-alive teenage son in London—and as far as he knows, she’s supposed to be in an extended care facility.
The Ben she lives with is the man with whom she’d once had an affair and who beat her half to death with a champagne bottle after she refused to take the relationship any further—the source of her brain injury. And now, years later, he’s tracked her down, signed her out of medical care with a few fraudulent papers and a lot of charm (which is sort of believable, since he’s played by Colin Firth), and set himself up with a perfect life where he can feed her stories about their beautiful romance and abuse her, sexually and physically, knowing that she won’t remember any of it the next day.
The viewer becomes a stand-in for the victim, and storytelling—namely, tear-jerking, heart-tugging, melodramatic storytelling—is equated with emotional abuse. It’s a heck of an idea to build a thriller around; it effectively poisons the movie’s ostensibly happy ending, which finds Christine reunited with her son and the “real” Ben (Adam Levy). After all, didn’t the real Ben abandon her in that facility? Didn’t he stop visiting her years ago? And yet there she is, crying tears of joy.