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- Directed by Lisa Joy
- Written by Lisa Joy
- Starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson and Thandiwe Newton.
- Rating PG-13
- Available in Theaters and HBO Max August 20
Sometimes a film experience is so heavily steeped in world-building, it barely takes the time to make sense. Reminiscence, written and directed by Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy, is a futuristic film noir fashioned as a mystery that travels not through time, but memory – and in the process of blending genres, doesn’t leave much of an impression.
Reminiscence has a plot so convoluted, it’s hard to trust my own memories of my experience as a viewer. The film stars Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister, a war veteran and a private investigator of sorts – he investigates the mind, and memory – as he and his partner and fellow ex-vet, Watts (Thandiwe Newton), navigate the seedy underworld of Miami, submerged thanks to climate change. They live in a future where people only come out at night because it’s too hot during the day, and everyone’s constantly ankle-deep in water (unless they are wealthy, in which case they live on drier land). This future is so depressing, people are constantly reliving their best memories of the less-soggy past – an approach also used in criminal court cases. When a mysterious woman Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) enters Bannister’s life before exiting as quickly as she came, he stops at nothing to find out the truth of her disappearance.
During certain moments in Reminiscence, it’s clear that Joy had a vision for the film. The futuristic depiction of a Miami under water is a surprisingly strong backdrop to the story, adding much-needed layers of texture to the very thin story. The rest of the details – about the war Bannister and Watt fought in, the political turmoil that ends up being a major plot point, and the exact rules of memory extraction – are all hardly explained. And this isn’t because the film tries not to explain these things – in true noir style, Bannister’s voiceover is ever-present, detailing the surroundings and his thought process.
Regardless, veteran actors Ferguson, Jackman and Newton all do their absolute best to make you feel like their characters are actual people. Bannister and Watts are platonic life partners with an easy chemistry that feels natural (though not romantic). As Mae – who truly has no characteristic beyond being beautiful, sad and mysterious – Ferguson does her absolute best to make you understand why anyone would care about her disappearance in the first place.
Overall, Reminiscence pushes the limits of how much a movie can make sense if it is constantly attempting to explain the rules of the world it is presenting to you. For a film about memories, Reminiscence is ultimately truly forgettable.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)
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