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Review: Reminiscence (2021)

Reminiscence (2021)

Directed by: Lisa Joy

Premise: Set in the near future, technology exists that allows users to relive their memories. A proprietor of this technology (Hugh Jackman) uses it to investigate the disappearance of the woman he loved (Rebecca Ferguson).

What Works: Reminiscence is a beautifully crafted motion picture. The film takes place in a dystopian future in which climate change has flooded coastal metropolitan areas. This is realized vividly on screen. Dystopian futures sometimes look severely decayed whereas the future of Reminiscence is generally credible. That’s true of the production design but also the conception of technology. It’s a plausible future and the film presents some interesting ideas and possesses an ambitious scope. The story is rooted in a classic film noir framework. A private detective is hired by a femme fatale and gets wrapped up in a bigger mystery. Reminiscence has some interesting editing techniques. The fictional technology allows the filmmakers to tell their story out of sequence and scenes are juxtaposed in some clever ways that streamline the storytelling. Reminiscence is led by Hugh Jackman as the investigator and he’s paired with Rebecca Ferguson as his vanished love interest. Although there’s no reason behind their relationship, Jackman and Ferguson sell it; their shared scenes have romantic heat due to the actors’ shared chemistry and the eroticism of the filmmaking.

What Doesn’t: The various pieces of Reminiscence never quite come together. As in a lot of noir thrillers, the detective uncovers corruption at the highest levels of society. This is the least interesting element of the entire film and the resolution of that mystery falls flat and offers little emotional payoff. The story takes a few absurd turns, especially in the ending, with a big confessional moment that’s embedded in a character’s memory in a way that makes no sense. Reminiscence entertains a lot of potentially interesting concepts but virtually all of them are taken at face value. The technology of Reminiscence has a few fatal logical flaws. For one, these are first person memories but they are visualized from an observatory, third person perspective. For another, the film assumes a level of objectivity, fidelity, and consistency that just doesn’t occur in human memory. Acknowledging the inconsistently of memory could have complicated this story and its themes but the filmmakers ignore those possibilities. Reminiscence also flirts with the allure of nostalgia; this is a particularly relevant idea for the present moment but the filmmakers don’t really do anything with that concept.

Bottom Line: Reminiscence never quite delivers on its ambitions. It’s an admirable attempt to tell an original sci-fi story and the picture is well crafted. This is the debut feature of writer and director Lisa Joy and while it isn’t entire successful, Reminiscence does demonstrate Joy as a talent to watch.

Episode: #866 (August 29, 2021)