Director: Lisa Joy
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu
Written by: Lisa Joy
Running Time: 116 mins
Release date: 20th August 2021
One thing that upsets me as a film fan is seeing a movie with so much potential, just never gelling. Reminiscence is one such movie. A science-fiction thriller that mixes genres, with a cast that I like and some interesting ideas. Yet nothing in this movie made me excited or had me emotionally involved, and I ended up just not caring. Where did it go wrong?
Nick Bannister is a private investigator who uses the dreams of his clients to help solve their problems. When Mae enters into his world, he becomes obsessed and finds himself falling in love with her. However, she disappears, and so Nick starts to piece together the reasons why. As he digs deeper, he finds himself involved in a world of drugs, kidnapping and murder that could cost him his own life.
Writer and director Lisa Joy, who worked on the TV series Westworld and Christopher Nolan’s sister-in-law, certainly has a pedigree for challenging sci-fi. As the film starts, the premise is intriguing. A tracking shot through a future world of water, where skyscrapers seem to have grown in a massive lake, has loads of potential. Even the introduction of Nick, as he walks through the soggy streets to an abandoned bank that he uses as his base, with his partner, Watts, while Nick’s voice-over explains his profession of a dream detective, is a solid start.
However, what starts well, slowly descends into messy and full of contrivances as the film desperately tries to bring elements of film noir to its sci-fi tale. We have all the right ingredients for a reminder of 40s thrillers; a narrative told by the lead in voiceover, a femme fatale, a complex plot of twists and turns. What makes this fail is the whole thing is played straight, with earnest lines of dialogue that may sound deep and meaningful but are, in fact, far too pretentious. A good film noir voiceover will describe situations and characters with quirky adjectives and full of imaginative metaphors. Here it just seems to drone on without actually propelling the plot.
Nick’s relationship with the mysterious Mae seems incredibly rushed that you wonder if it is love or just pure animal lust. His obsession as he plays out his dreams borders on the creepy that even Watts, his work partner, can see that he’s losing the plot, and she’s got a drinking problem (another trait of film noir: a character who drinks heavily). Where the film struggles are the investigation, Nick is sent here, there and everywhere, trying to find his love while coping with a variety of characters who come in and out of the story without any actual detail.
Mae is involved with some very seedy people, and it’s these people that Nick has to find to get information about her whereabouts. It just so happens that events that occur at the beginning of the film that seems entirely innocent play a pivotal part in Mae’s disappearance. Instead of making sense, they seem to be contrivances that make you lose interest the longer it goes on. The truth is so lame; you find yourself asking why you have just spent 2 hours watching this.
As I said earlier, the cast, I like. Thandiwe Newton is always highly watchable, and here she comes out best, even if her character of Watts is mainly a sidekick to Nick, with the drinking there to make her even more interesting. Rebecca Ferguson is much better than the material. As Mae, she gets to sing, but she doesn’t exude any genuine interest for the rest of the film. She looks magnificent, but looks are never everything. That leaves us with Hugh Jackson as Nick. Mr Nice Guy gets to play a detective, but why did the voiceover need to be so gravelly. It sounds like he needs to clear his throat. You yearn for him to lighten up and have some fun, but he is so severe, it doesn’t seem to fit his persona. I would love to see him play Phillip Marlowe, but in the same vein as James Garner or Elliott Gould. This detective needs to cheer up.
Reminiscence isn’t a terrible film. Some moments work exceptionally well. You find yourself not caring and wanting more information about the world that Joy has created. For a film about memories, this is instantly forgettable.
2 out of 5