Directed by Claire Carre.
Starring Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernandez, Tucker Smallwood, Karl Glusman, Roberto Cots, Dominique Swain, Matthew Goulish, and Silvan Friedman.
After a global neurological epidemic, those who remain search for meaning and connection in a world without memory.
Embers poses a very terrifying apocalyptic scenario; what if a global epidemic inflicting memory loss around the world caused a societal collapse. How would you move on with your life, or continue to maintain a relationship with those around you, or even survive at the most basic level?
The restraint to not turn Embers into a sci-fi action thriller or something overly futuristic is one of the film’s greatest strengths. Instead of pouring on the cliché end-of-society-as-we-know-it backstory, Embers contains one passing line of dialogue in its opening moments mentioning that a virus has invaded the air people breathe, causing them to entirely forget who they are after waking up from a deep sleep. Even scarier is that short-term memory loss can be triggered sporadically if the mind wanders into different thoughts. Everything else is open to interpretation via imagination.
Once establishing this very basic yet fascinating premise, we are introduced to a young man and woman with matching ribbons around their wrists, as they attempt to piece together their connection to one another. Could they be siblings? Maybe they are lovers? Either way, the two feel a strong bond towards one another, something that can’t be explained outright, but strangely feels meant to be.
Embers then introduces us to the rest of its cast; a child aimlessly wandering around alone, an emotionally unstable violent man driven by primal instincts, an intelligent writer of sorts researching neurotic data for a cure, and a young girl locked away in a bunker with her father unaffected from the disease. Like most stories that choose to consistently switch between characters, some are more interesting than others. As a matter of fact, some scenes are just downright boring while others greatly inspire intrigue.
The animalistic, violent man doesn’t do much besides getting in physical altercations and attempting to rob people of food or rape them; it’s harrowing stuff expertly acted but also pales in comparison to the much more interesting plot threads. For example, the child and man researching a cure come into contact with each other, and the man decides to look after him. It’s a nice reminder that amidst despair and very little civilization, there is still hope to be found within the humane kindness of others.
Some of the realistic science behind the memory loss depicted in the movie is also very interesting, making for some truly tragic moments. It’s actually a bit depressing when characters you have very little attachment to become separated against their will, all because the effects of this epidemic began kicking in yet again. Embers is a piece of science fiction that makes us realize we sometimes take for granted something as basic and fundamental as our memories. We’d be absolutely fucked without them, and Embers encourages provocative what-if alternate realities.
Embers is also highly metaphorical and abstract, asking viewers to ponder what it is that makes them human. Is it your memories or the things you do living in the moment? What’s interesting is that core personalities and skills (chopping wood for example) are retained despite memory loss, just like real science dictates. Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
It also has to be mentioned that for a micro-budget film, Embers showcases a beautifully decayed world thrust into ruin complete with collapsed buildings, emptiness and isolation, garbage littered around hinting at a future gone wrong, and more. The outdoors colorless palette is also juxtaposed with clean and stark whites in the sanctuary of the bunker. There’s also a really relaxing soundtrack giving the vibe of a lucid dreamlike state as characters wander the wasteland in search for purpose. It’s simply really easy to buy into that this epidemic has affected the world for nine years running thanks to an incredibility realized atmosphere.
Still, Embers contains just as many boring scenes as actual interesting ones. It’s only an 86 minute movie, but is still somehow feels like there’s room to trim down certain scenes and keep things paced more tightly. For the most part however, it’s a joy to watch and will probably make you glad you can remember who you are when you wake up in the morning. Perhaps most importantly, it reminds us to hold onto hope during the worst of times.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook