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MOVIES: Reminiscence - Review

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Reminiscence is a fascinating debut from Lisa Joy from a purely worldbuilding perspective, if little else. Set after the seas rose and the Earth boiled to the point where humans now live nocturnally following numerous wars, people have nothing to look forward to anymore so memory machines were invented in order to allow its occupants to relive past memories. Hugh Jackman steps into the lead role as Nick and the film gets going when Rebecca Ferguson’s wayward singer Mae arrives on his doorstep, reuniting for the first time since The Greatest Showman, asking him to step into her memories to look for lost keys. But memories are a dangerous thing – and soon a simple open and shut case turns ugly as the past refuses to stay buried.

The cast in this is excellent – Jackman delivers a solid performance but comes across more bland than anything, and his chemistry with Rebecca Ferguson is largely underwhelming. Thandwie Newton plays a supporting role as an alcoholic gun-toting badass stealing the show from the start to the point where you almost wish she was the main character instead, with Joy reuniting many familiar Westworld faces for an experiment in filmmaking that you don’t really get anymore, a star-studded standalone science fiction noir that calls back to the likes of Blade Runner in its premise, but instead feels more like CSI: Inception, wasting one of the most fascinating science fiction worlds in years on arguably the most boring plot imaginable, a cookie-cutter deceive story that has little in the way of surprises, you know exactly what road it’s headed on from the moment it starts heading down that road.

Due to the Nolan connections it’s little surprise that the influence is all over Reminiscence, and the added convolution of the Westworld voiceover-driven narrative really drops the ball at multiple turns, robbing any potential room for character development rendering most of the characters thin on the ground. Despite Jackman and Ferguson’s solid performances, it’s Newton that steals the scene from under them, in an impressive barroom brawl set to a disorientated version of Tainted Love. If there’s one thing that Reminiscence isn’t short on, it’s atmosphere – the dirt, the grime and the grit of the city couldn’t be more evident as the seedy underbelly and the class war of the rich vs poor is explored in a way - if one note - that calls back to the classic noir flicks like Chinatown or John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon - or even the works of Raymond Chandler, owing more homage to them then say, something more of a sci-fi nature, Reminiscence is grounded in its sense of self-seriousness that doesn't capture your imagination.

The voiceover narration is one of the bigger problems in this film – it’s far too cheesy and not really subtle in the slightest. We never really get an insight into Nick’s character as the film spends too much time telling rather than showing. Perhaps what’s more interesting is the combination of heavy CGI and old-school dystopian trappings, floppy discs are prominent in Reminiscence. It’s a blend that presents fascinating multiple possibilities and I could watch whole anthologies in this world. Keeping it constrained to a two hour and twenty-eight-minute movie and refusing to stay from a tried-and-tested typical noir pastiche feels almost like a waste of space.

Given the overwhelming bloat of IP-driven narratives like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Free Guy I went into Reminiscence excited; wanting to like this as it was something that feels at least on paper, truly unique in comparison to a world of endless sequels and remakes. Instead - I can't help but be disappointed, as the entire experience was wholly forgettable. For a film that spends so much time wrapped up in its own memories - it won't last long in yours.

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