Lisa Joy's Reminiscence is a promising full-length feature debut, grappling with time in the form of an addiction that will destroy you if you let it. Hugh Jackman is leading man material in this rainy noire set in a post-apocalyptic future. Reminiscence isn't perfect, but it's a daring first stab at the silver screen for Lisa Joy.
All endings are sad. Especially if the story was happy.
Way to set the mood for one heck of a gut punch, Lisa Joy. Reminiscence is both bleak and dour, yet poetic and sweet in its attempt at deconstructing time through the lens of addiction. Our most prized and cherished memories are suddenly the root cause of our current unhappiness and inability to move forward as Hugh Jackman‘s Nick refuses to let go and live in the “now”, because of memories that have created feelings that have clouded his judgment on the present.
The rainy, flooded backdrop sets the mood for a post-apocalyptic noire that’s complete with voiceovers and go-go dance clubs in a seedy washed up world where we use to live. Now, people sleep during the day and operate at night, with five-o-clock shadows and bloodshot eyes representing a pulse.
Westworld staple and co-creator Lisa Joy makes the jump to full-length feature writer/director with ease, occasionally letting the pacing slip for excessive regret, but mostly keeping the ship on course as Hugh Jackman‘s Nick Bannister navigates through a world of memories in search for the one that got away (played by Rebecca Ferguson).
In the near future, war breaks out and the tides rise, causing the rich to scurry away to dry land, while the middle-class and the poor are left to fend for themselves in a torn down version of a world we once knew. The military is forced to perform acts of duty that they’re not very proud of, which clearly leaves them shell-shocked, while the rest of the population look to drugs and past memories as a way of coping with the lack of a future or feeling of self-control.
Reminiscence is many things. It’s a movie about addiction and balance, reminding us that while the past is always bright and fond — it will consume you if you let it. Too much of one thing becomes bad, especially when a machine is invented that allows people the possibility of looking back to a few memories of their past, which leads us to Nick, a private investigator/friend for hire that unlocks that ability to see into the past, for the right price.
Nick works closely with law enforcement to help hone in on vital information to help crack cases, but he also helps old friends and paying customers look back into a window of hope and happiness.
His world gets rocked upside down when Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) asks for assistance in locating her keys, only to fall head-over-heels in love with her and then SMACK…..she’s gone.
Now, Nick is fumbling around his own memories in attempt to reconstruct what happened. Where did she go and why did she leave without as much as saying goodbye?
Reminiscence is scored with a weird burned out tinge by composer Ramin Djawadi and I appreciate the approach and creativity more than I actually enjoyed the music. It’s fitting in the sense that it sounds like music that would be playing on the stereo in the background of a drug house as a deal is going down, but it lessens the emotional blows on-screen as its paired with more powerful visuals.
Speaking of which, the film has a distinct look and feel to it that must be credited to DP Paul Cameron and writer/director Lisa Joy. Together, they manage to create a world that feels lived in and over-drawn from, much like the seedy bank hideout that Jackman’s character is running his memory escape operation from.
The rising tides mix perfectly with the neon glow and abandoned cityscapes as Nick’s journey backwards in time leads him further into our bleak future.
I will say that there is much to love about Reminiscence, especially in terms of raw imagery and Jackman’s leading man chops when it comes to playing a vulnerable and broken down man. Jackman is on the top of his game here, as usual, and if I had to pick a performance that this one mirrored I would have to say Darren Aronofsky‘s The Fountain comes to mind.
Reminiscence requires a bit more of an “action movie star” mentality, which robs some of the film’s more intimate moments for sappy melodrama that is bluntly inserted to push things forward.
And that’s fine, but it leads me into my issues with the film, which are few, but existent.
The film’s whole middle act feels like a never-ending search for something that is easily found. I’m not sure if the misstep was with the script or just the overall movement of the film as it seemed to start up quickly but then get hung up for a solid 30 minutes before finding its way back home.
There’s also a few spots of rough dialogue and acting that I would simply credit the script in need of another pass and while I can’t pinpoint anything specific, I can say that Cliff Curtis and Daniel Wu did not gel with the tone that was set — both men felt a bit too over-the-top and broad in their delivery and I’d call it more of a personal preference than a fault to their abilities, perhaps?
Coming back to that quote that kicked this all off. I will say that Reminiscence doesn’t abandon its philosophy or message in how it depicts the destruction of anything precious through abuse and obsession. It also doesn’t forget the fragility of peaceful existence and how too much power on one side of the scale can tip the whole damn thing over and cause the water to excessively run.
I appreciate and admire the conclusion of the film and think that it will be worthy of discussion in the future after repeat viewings. Reminiscence is a strong recommendation from me that I think will only grow with time.