So I hadn’t see much advertising for Reminiscence and the only reason I can think of why that is is because Warner Bros. are too busy pushing their latest releases on HBO rather than supporting the very institution that hold the whole reason to their existence. Effectively this was going into a film blind, and I was pretty surprised by the angle the filmmakers had taken. I never expected to experience a science fiction film in a film noir style, so immediately in my head I had prepared a film noir checklist to see which cliches Reminiscence would embrace, but I was also ready for the film to break those cliches and turn noir stereotypes on its head. Admittedly the film ticked almost every noir box, but where the film lacks in ingenuity, it makes up for in its ambition.
Let’s talk about its ambition first of all. This film was directed debutante Lisa Joy, she is the wife of the well-known producer and brother of Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan. She also created the popular show Westworld along side him and just from the standpoint of the film’s world, you call tell she brought over her experience in making Westworld with her. The film takes place in near-future Miami where climate change has flooded the city and people have adopted a nocturnal lifestyle as the heat in the day is too extreme. Now this is amazing world building, giving us something that is radically weird, but also familiar. I thought the people travelling around by boat instead of car was a neat touch in showing a changed world to our own. Even the political divide follows this path, it’s totally believable to think that the rich would have enough power and corruption to protect themselves from the rising sea levels and that the poor have to live with it.
Hugh Jackman is Nick, a private investigator who has a machine that allows people to revisit memories from the past as if they were actually there. Initially it was used to gather evidence on cases, but because they live in a world where at any moment streets could be underwater, people use it as an escape to simpler times. What starts as a simple premise becomes an intricate investigation for Nick as he is searching for Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) who he fell in love with, but she disappears and during his search for her, Nick uncovers some dark truths about her past. There is a lot of voice over in this film supplied by a very calming Hugh Jackman voice, but in the grand scheme of things, Rebecca Ferguson is the one that stands out for me. She plays the femme fatale trope pretty well and when we uncover what happened to her in her past it does convince us to follow along with this discovery, provided you can get through all the name dropping of minor characters.
It’s clear to me that Lisa Joy is a fantastic world builder, plus from what I’ve watched from Westworld, she knows how to make that world interesting to the viewer. I say this because it’s clear that she has more talent in building a world than she does applying its elements to the context of the story. We’re told that because of the climate change there was a war that happened at some point in the past and that Nick and his assistant Watts (Thandiwe Newton) fought in it, but the extent of what this war involved plus the psychological effects it had on Nick, Watts and other characters are never ever explored. What was this war? What changed because of it? how did it affect the characters? There are so many unanswered questions regarding this point. One you make that connection; you’ll soon begin to discover other examples of world building that ultimately do not matter to the story being told.
Even the rising sea levels ultimately do not matter which is a real shame because there are so many hints dropped to its effect, but it doesn’t follow through with them. We’re shown a dam that is holding back the rising sea which is hinted could break at any moment, but this ticking time bomb lacks any ticks. There is a race against time for the characters personally, but I think having a more active world around them adds another layer of pressure.
Ultimately, I was much more interested in the world rather than the story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson’s performance, the interesting choice of film noir style and the technology is very effective considering how many people wish they could go back to simpler days, but what is the point in having a futuristic world if you don’t utilise it properly. You could set Reminiscence in a far advanced, flying cars future dystopia with the same story and your initial reaction would remain the same. I think Lisa Joy has the makings of a promising new feature film director, especially being close to one of the minds who has come up with mind blowing sci-fi worlds in the past like Inception and Tenet, but if she is going to try anything like this again, she has to think about how the world connects to the story.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Reminiscence? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Candyman