What would you do if you held the keys to all the memories of your past? Would you use them to solve any long-standing mysteries? Or would you choose to reminisce certain pleasant recollections over and over with an erstwhile memorial figment?
In the world that is “Reminiscence”, a sci-fi noir created by the mind behind HBO’s “Westworld”, attempts to answer all of the above questions. The film marks the feature debut for “Westworld” creator Lisa Joy while also being the second collaboration between stars Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson.
Nicolas Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is a P.I. who specialises in delving into the deepest nooks and crannies of the mind through a process known as Reminiscence. A mix of buttons here and buzzing electricity there and “KAZAM”, an individual’s past memories are displayed right onto an augmented reality. In this realm, the lies, the truth, darkest events and brightest memories are all laid out on a transparent sheet. There is no hiding when being subjected to the process. Nevertheless, it isn’t an entirely foolproof process as mysteries don’t get solved just by looking through a singular person’s mind.
Co-creating this whole operation is Watts (Thandiwe Newton) who assists Bannister in handling the Reminiscence equipment. She is the elder of the two, a loyal adjutant, but more so the ever-concerned conscience to her emotionally-driven partner. There is no questioning her guts as she stands head-to-head with Nick.
Enter Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), a scarlet-clad beauty who entrances Nick in a wicked stupor, sweeping him off his feet one fine evening as she desperately makes a request to recover a bunch of lost keys. Our protagonist seeks her out after recovering the keys and bonds with her. Their relationship flourishes as they proceed with unlocking the various keys to each other’s spirits.
Everything is good. Everything seems good… that is until Mae vanishes without a trace.
From here on out, Nick becomes a lost soul, wandering the plains of his own mind, involving himself within the confines of his own life. He’s given up hope of his love returning to him. However, when he finally gets a whiff of Mae’s whereabouts during a police investigation, the quest to solve this longstanding mystery commences.
From the get-go, it is pretty clear that the movie borrows, or is inspired by the sci-fi classics that preceded it. There are traces of “Blade Runner’s” neon-infused nightlife and even the dreaminess of “Inception” layered between submerged buildings and watery streets of Miami. This “Wet-world”, as we would like to say, is tastefully painted, with its golden sunsets and ocean-lined carriages fleeting into the distance.
Much like “Inception”, “Reminiscence’s” lead is locked in a cage of his own design. The theme of losing a loved one is especially evident as the memories of a love long gone consistently threatens to uproot everything. The longstanding relationships he has with the people around him are in consistent danger of splintering apart. Indeed, Hugh Jackman shines in this arena, bringing a hopeless quality to Nick at first, but abandoning all that as his pursuits for the truth becomes unrelenting.
Rebecca Ferguson also does not disappoint in her role. It’s great that both Jackman and she maintain strong on-screen chemistry, riding off the back of the P.T. Barnum semi-autobiography that came before. Ferguson is especially commanding in her scenes. The enigma of Mae is her strength and there is no denying that Ferguson delivers when needed.
While we appreciate the stylistic noir and commanding presences, much of the film itself feels like an unpolished mineral. There is a lack of desire in getting viewers to understand the foundations on which this world is built upon. Of course, we’re not suggesting to oversaturate the audience with heaps of exposition but rather, to provide an immersion in the grounded reality of its fiction.
Many a time, opportunities to truly get the audience to take in all of the beauty and grimy landscapes are glossed over in favour of progressing the plot. Yet, by the end of it, the narrative itself is not as tightly wound as it seemed to strive for. So, what happens when investment in the world itself is low? What happens when its themes become mixed up in a convoluted firefight for the limelight? There are active attempts to reiterate certain characteristics twice or thrice throughout the course of the film. However, by its end, it is a product that does not know what it truly is.
Ultimately, “Reminiscence” is a feature that contains a vision but ultimately lacks a whole lot of direction. In its bizarre sway of the plot, it is the utter likeability of the protagonists and the dramatic talent these actors convey that manage to keep the film from derailing completely. Possibly, with some polishing, this could be an unusual gem. Nonetheless, as of now, the noirs and sci-fi escapades of old may be reminisced once again as vastly superior commentaries on love, recollections, and life itself.
"Reminiscence" is fortunate enough to be bolstered by the prowess of its established performers as its overall lack of focus sinks the thrills of this neo-noir feature into the waters of a submerged Miami cityscape.