Lisa Joy, co-creator of HBO’s Westworld, paves her way to a directorial debut while sticking to her own roots, with Reminiscence, a movie she also wrote and produced. The film takes place in a sci-fi future which is devastated by climate change, violence, and corruption.
Hugh Jackman’s Nick Bannister is at the center of the whole film. With the words “The past can haunt a man”—repeated at the film’s beginning and end—Joy takes us on a ride by introducing us to his profession: He’s a private investigator who has a machine that allows people to relive their memories. Whether they are murderers who deny their guilt, or simply someone who’s lost their keys and can’t quite remember where they left them—any memory can be seen.
Though the film’s depiction of the ability to relive memories is a good one, it seems very static and unrealistic. Memories are subjective and can get fuzzy as time progresses. Instead, in the film, they’re treated as fact, crystallized in time. Nonetheless, no matter how innovative the memory recollection premise is, it fades into the background as a misguided mash-up of mystery and romance take center stage.
When femme fatale Mae (played by Rebecca Ferguson) wanders into the picture, things unknowingly take a turn. This encounter leads Bannister and Mae into a fiery relationship that comes to a screeching halt following her disappearance. In hopes of learning the truth behind her absence, Nick searches his own memories and the world around him for answers.
I’m sure that there was supposed to be undeniable heat and passion between the characters, but it seems to have fizzled. Unlike other films where Ferguson plays a gorgeous woman of mystery (i.e. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Mission Impossible Fallout), the chemistry between the two characters seems inorganic and quite awkward.
The film does do an acceptable job at explaining what a dystopia could look like soon. It’s no secret that climate change is affecting our generation as we speak, so it’s sobering and informative to see the possible after-effect of this in Joy’s dystopian future. One scene that’s a great cinematic depiction of this is when Bannister ends up in a fight in a flooded hotel lobby. The concept of half-flooded land and half-solid land is one we should start grappling with.
What wasn’t believable, or making much sense, was the element of the scorching heat made by the sun. The film states that it is much too hot during the day for people to be outside, yet most—if not all—the scenes are shot during the daylight.
The films also suffers from uneven editing. Rather than the film seeming as one harmonious story, it seemed to be disjointed in places, only to try and be glued together by Bannister’s periodic voiceovers.
German composer Ramin Djawadi is well known for his scores for Iron Man, and the HBO series Game of Thrones (for both of which he received Grammy Award nominations). Unfortunately, this one doesn’t add much oomph to the film. In moments of climax, the musical scores seem timid and underwhelming.
Lastly, I wished Thandiwe Newton had more of a chance to shine. She was a hidden gem of the film and honestly, I would have preferred her as the star rather than Jackman. She was the most believable character and could have been utilized much more. She’s mainly the voice of reason to Jackman’s character and displays instances of badassness by saving his life. I felt as though when she was on screen, things got a lot more interesting/high-paced for this slow burner of a film.
Nonetheless, Reminiscence wasn’t a terrible film. It had some highlights, but I wouldn’t by any means say that it’s the peak for any of the actors/actresses, or Joy’s career. I’d say out of 10, I give it 6 stars.
Reminiscence is now available in theaters and on HBO Max.