Written and Directed by Lisa Joy.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Daniel Wu, Cliff Curtis, Angela Sarafyan, Natalie Martinez, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Nico Parker, Gabrielle Echols, Teri Wyble, and Marina de Tavira.
Nick Bannister, a private investigator of the mind, navigates the alluring world of the past when his life is changed by new client Mae. A simple case becomes an obsession after she disappears and he fights to learn the truth about her.
Whether you want to relive tender moments with a lost loved one or need help locating your car keys, Hugh Jackman’s Nick Bannister can offer assistance through a business (ran alongside his friend Emily played by Thandiwe Newton) offering the experience of reliving memories. For writer and director Lisa Joy, Reminiscence shares a great deal in common with Westworld (the popular HBO show she co-created), from taking itself too seriously, visual touches (especially when characters are depicted reliving memories inside a virtual space), and even bringing aboard outstanding composer Ramin Djawadi in a desperate attempt to imbue this high concept sci-fi with grandstanding emotion.
From a visual and sonic standpoint, nothing about Reminiscence sticks out as offensively bad. However, the narrative is a different story entirely. And far be it from me to ponder and criticize how this regressive story was the brainchild of a woman because realistically, everyone has their own image of romance and certain stories they enjoy watching unfold and telling. With that said, the problem is not so much so that Nick becomes a full-blown stalker obsessed with a mysterious woman that randomly disappears while they are in love, but rather the story never once makes a compelling case that we should buy into or care about the love unfolding prior and, perhaps even more insulting, takes all its messages about memories and time to end on another baffling note. Movies don’t get much more misguided and ill-advised as this.
Anyway, Rebecca Ferguson is Mae, an enigma that seemingly wants Nick to pay close attention to the memories she chooses to unlock. She’s crying in the dressing room before singing at a bar and, in the real world, seems to reward his puppy love fascination with seduction. Just as fast as they fall for one another, she’s gone, leaving Nick, someone who advises against becoming addicted to revisiting the past, to constantly review all of their memories together (it’s noted that sometimes people can peripherally observe new details when reliving memories) searching for clues. And when he is investigating crimes related to a wealthy land baron that connects to Mae, he drops all sense of professionalism to focus on pushing those people into memories that will help him further piece together the mystery.
In a creative decision that only muddies the narrative further, Reminiscence also falters to frustratingly vague world-building, consistently referring to a Border War (the participants are never addressed nor do we know what it was about) that resulted in sunken cities poor people now inhabit whereas the rich ensured they would still be able to live on land safely. There is also a hard drug in high demand, with its distribution tying into various plot points. Ultimately, they all exist as hilariously bad excuses for Lisa Joy to string her contrived story along (most notably during a scene where a pair of generic villains ordered to kill Nick decide to let him go after noticing he served in the war, or conveniently changing the perspectives the protagonists view memories from). Expectedly, in terms of visual flair, these concepts do give the film a distinct and pleasant look (the opening shot showcases towering buildings surrounded by floods having individual rooms lit up at night, as that is the time people prefer to stay awake now), but there are several times it feels like the script never cared about any of this beyond superficial reasons.
There’s a host of characters not even mentioned in this review, and for a good reason considering barely any of them register as people with real personalities. Even when Reminiscence starts pulling back the curtain on what’s really going on, you can’t help but want to throw your hands up in the air and exclaim, “no shit.” Admittedly, the delivery of the third act is competent and moderately engaging (there’s an extended fight sequence that comes out of nowhere, as a brooding Hugh Jackman ups the intensity of his performance), yet remains woefully misguided.
Reminiscence has a flawed concept of love, characters that may as well be objects servicing the story, questionable messages, and a lifeless Hugh Jackman who’s protagonist has many unlikable moments alongside creepy behavior. It won’t be immediately forgotten, but rather forever known as that time WB gave the co-creator of Westworld a bunch of money to make a colossal misfire.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com