Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 56 minutes, Director – Lisa Joy
Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) helps people relive their memories, however the stories of past customers begin to link up when mysterious stranger Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) suddenly disappears from his life.
Like the memories that are so integral to the plot, Lisa Joy’s feature directorial debut, Reminiscence, very much feels like a throwback to a range of styles and genres. Hugh Jackman’s narration throughout, alongside a number of the visuals within darkly lit rooms, hints at a noir film of years gone by, mixed in with the sci-fi themes of his character’s profession. He plays Nick Bannister, a man who helps people to relive memories through the use of advanced technology in a building surrounded by high-rising dams blocking off drastically risen sea levels. He, alongside his employee/ co-worker ‘Watts’ (Thandiwe Newton), tends to see the same faces coming in and out of his generally empty workplace – aside from the essentials to the job – each day, addicted to the idea of nostalgia. However, when glamorous stranger Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) walks in one night in the hope of being able to remember where her misplaced keys are things change for Nick as a relationship begins to form between the pair.
But, as would be expected in a noir relationship that starts as rapidly as this one, Mae suddenly disappears, leading Nick into a downward spiral, reliving his own memories of their few months together. However, when helping the police find evidence within the memories of a suspected criminal he finds further links to the mysterious woman who randomly entered his life, taking it upon himself to find out just what happened to her. The man who once claimed that “memory is the boat… And I am the oarsman” begins to lose control of himself as his one aim becomes finding Mae. A fantastically detailed story develops and holds you in a state of intrigue over the course of the film’s run-time. Where the film appears to falter is in the mix of styles that it contains, causing things to come across in a somewhat unsatisfying manner.
There’s an odd blend of styles and genres from various different decades across the film which form which while somehow helping with the story and the themes that run throughout it sometimes creates a slight feeling of disconnect, despite your growing interest in how things develop. It’s a difficult blend to describe, and certainly so is the reaction. Nonetheless, amongst the slightly messy styles and feelings, there’s plenty to engage with aside from the story. Various action scenes that take place avoid giving the film a huge blockbuster feel and if anything further compliment the dominant noir genre through which much of the film is framed. There’s a slightly more sinister nature to things, a mild dark streak, which fleshes out Jackman’s character and his frantic search for answers which throws him deeper into an uncertain and threatening world.
Again, there’s a strong story here. Brilliantly clever, creative and consistently engaging. And it forms the core hook for the viewer, enhanced by the fine performances that line the piece and increase the dramatic tones throughout. There are simply elements which find themselves lost in a grouping of styles and genres that lacks neatness. Intrigue and interest are still held, and things clear up in time for the many reveals of the third act. Unfortunately the full potential of such elements, which could be vast, feels limited by the uneven, and somewhat unsatisfying, nature in which a large portion of the story is told.
Reminiscence has a superb story at its heart, and there’s heaps of interest and intrigue within the narrative. However, with its blend of styles and genres from various decades it can feel slightly uneven and therefore not completely satisfying.