Reminiscence (2021)

Director: Lisa Joy
Writer: Lisa Joy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan
Seen on: 31.8.2021

In a Miami almost entirely drowned Nick (Hugh Jackman) and his employee Watts (Thandiwe Newton) run a small reminiscence business. Their clients come to relive their memories in the most realistic way possible with them. Everything changes for Nick the day that Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) comes in, hoping to find her lost keys. Nick and Mae become very close – until Mae disappears, leaving Nick scrambling to understand what happened with her, with them. Unable to let go, he digs into her past and uncovers more than he bargained for.

I had not realized going into the film that it was a noir set in the future. If I had, I may have liked it a little better, but fact is, I usually don’t like noirs and Reminiscence reminded me again why that is.

The film poster showing Nick (Hugh Jackman) standing with a gun in his hand, pointed at the floor. Behind him is a half-submerged street with boats and the other main characters are superimposed over the setting orange sun.

Reminiscence’ setting in the future is an inventive iteration of a familiar theme. I definitely liked the aesthetics of the half-submerged city. It gave the film a look and feel that is very much unlike other post-apocalyptic settings, and still in tune with the overall noir style. At the same time, the division of rich and poor within the city was so simplistic as to be almost comical (including the fact that the rich people are “the barons”). But okay, I can live with the fact that they created a literal chasm between the rich and the poor.

My trouble lay mostly with the genre. Reminiscence, despite its futuristic setting, is a classic noir with all the hallmarks I hate in the genre. That’s my personal bias and if you like those genre elements, you will probably like the film. But I was annoyed by the constant semi-philosophical voice-over, the mystery woman trope that is very much at the center of the film and what felt like a pretty standard plot to me.

Nick (Hugh Jackman) and Watts (Thandiwe Newton) setting up an interview for their work.

I also had to work on myself for a bit before accepting how the reminiscence machine works – because, honestly, memory doesn’t work like that at all as far as I know. Starting with the fact that you can’t remember what you didn’t notice (like a cup under a shelf or a lost key) and continuing on with the fact that we don’t see ourselves when we remember us (at least I very much don’t take the third-person-view of myself. But than again, I have aphantasia, so maybe I am different from the rest of the world). They try to explain the latter, but the explanation didn’t make much sense to me either. But after a while, I got to the necessary suspension of disbelief.

The cast was good, though the film did suffer a little from “I know this face, they must be important to the plot” casting. Despite that and the atmospheric world-building, I just couldn’t warm to the film. It ran too long and got on my nerves too much, unfortunately.

Nick (Hugh Jackman) and Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) kissing in his office.

Summarizing: if you like noirs, give it a go.

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