REVIEW: ‘Reminiscence’ Melds Memory and Mystery With Mixed Results

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Reminiscence

Reminiscence is a science-fiction mystery film written and directed by Lisa Joy and released by Warner Bros. Pictures. Years in the future, after a third World War and climate change has reduced Miami to a  half-sunken wreck, a private investigator, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), utilizes cutting-edge technology that lets people relive their memories. When a lounge singer named Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) walks in one day for an appointment, a smitten Bannister falls hard and fast for her, and the two begin a relationship. But Mae soon disappears, and Bannister embarks on a journey to find her, getting tangled in a web of murder and conspiracy along the way.

The film marks Joy’s directorial debut, and it’s fairly clear upon watching that she took a few lessons—and cast and crew members—from her time on Westworld. There’s a future where humanity seeks escapism in the form of cutting-edge technology. Memory plays a key role in the plot, as characters revisit the past for answers in an increasingly complex mystery. And Thandiwe Newton steals the show as Bannister’s fellow war veteran and partner Watts. Joy even co-produced the film with her Westworld co-creator and husband Jonathan Nolan, essentially making the two projects spiritual companions of a sort.

Joy also proves to be an adept hand behind the camera, immersing the audience in the world and slowly unfurling its details with each frame. Due to climate change, people go to sleep during the day and conduct their business at night. Water is everywhere, coating the streets and requiring boats to travel from place to place. The most intriguing element is the “Tank,” the device Bannister uses to explore people’s memories. Its users submerge themselves in a tank full of water, with an electric current unlocking their minds as Bannister guides them through the fog of the past. Said memories take on a shimmering, ethereal look thanks to cinematographer Paul Cameron, making them look more like dreams.

Reminiscence

Jackman turns in a stellar performance, bringing his trademark intensity to Bannister’s search for Mae. The film takes several cues from noir films, including a periodical voiceover from Bannister as the story unfolds and an escalating sense of danger as he encounters shady figures such as a crooked cop (Cliff Curtis) and a crime lord (Daniel Wu). One scene even features Bannister donning a white coat and fedora to talk with a lead, making Jackman resemble Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Noir films often revolve around a character driven by obsession or desperation, and Jackman embodies both throughout the film.

His co-stars could definitely have used the same treatment. Ferguson’s Mae is the classic femme fatale; she works as a lounge singer, steals the protagonist’s heart, and is almost always shown in body-hugging dresses. Yet, she’s only portrayed as an object of desire for Bannister or a mistrustful figure. She’s less of a character and more of a walking set of tropes. I would have loved more scenes showing the relationship between Bannister and Mae to showcase why she had such a hold on him. After all, Jackman and Ferguson definitely weren’t lacking in chemistry throughout the film’s runtime. Newton fares a bit better, as Watts and Bannister’s partnership is tested throughout the film, and Watts is revealed to hold secrets of her own.

Reminiscence also falters from a screenplay that grows more convoluted as time passes, attempting to connect threads that didn’t really need to be connected. At times, it feels as though Joy originally pitched the concept as a television series, or her first cut of the film was a bit longer and gave everything time to breathe. The central mystery also features echoes of Inception and Memento, films that Joy’s brother-in-law Christopher Nolan worked on. The difference is that those films took great care to unravel their mysteries and make sense upon rewatching them—this film is sadly lacking in that department.

Reminiscence marks an ambitious if unwieldy, directorial debut from Lisa Joy anchored by a high concept story and solid performance from Hugh Jackman. Westworld fans will probably want to check it out while waiting for the highly-anticipated fourth season, and science fiction lovers may also find something to enjoy.

Reminiscence is now playing in theatres and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

Reminiscence
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Reminiscence marks an ambitious if unwieldy, directorial debut from Lisa Joy anchored by a high concept story and solid performance from Hugh Jackman. Westworld fans will probably want to check it out while waiting for the highly-anticipated fourth season, and science fiction lovers may also find something to enjoy.