Don't look back.
Reminiscence is a 2021 neo-noir psychological sci-fi mystery film directed by Lisa Joy, written by Lisa Joy, produced by Kilter Films, Michael De Luca Productions, and FilmNation Entertainment, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film stars Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards.
"You are going on a journey. A journey through memory. Your destination? A place and time you've been before. To reach it, all you have to do is follow my voice." -Nick Bannister
In a dying world, Nick Bannister has figured out a way to allow people to revisit past memories to escape the horrific reality that they live in. When he meets a woman named Mae, his life is turned upside down by her disappearance. Nick takes an adventure through the past as he tries to uncover the truth about Mae and her sudden vanishment.
Using the Concept Well / Direction / Hugh Jackman and His Character / Twists / Themes / Coolness / Boring Romance / Unevenness / Payoff of Themes / Underdeveloped Villain / Confusing Parts / Conveniences
Reminiscence benefits from a really interesting science fiction idea that automatically makes the movie cooler to watch. It deftly blends things from Total Recall, Inception, and Minority Report while also being its own thing entirely. It uses the concept very well. In the opening half hour, Hugh Jackman's character uses this memory revisiting technology (which is called reminiscence) for multiple things. They come up with clever ways to show how the reminiscence technology would be used, and I really appreciated that aspect.
Director Lisa Joy also does a great job of making this film a unique experience. It can be extremely psychological at times, and Joy is the reason for that. There are some beautiful long takes as well as some incredible, haunting shots that make Reminiscence a very eerie film. She handles the neo-noir parts of this film perfectly. It definitely enhances the viewing experience.
I also really liked Hugh Jackman's performance and character. Hugh Jackman is one of those actors that is almost always good, but he fits this role really well. We watch Nick Bannister transform from a man on the verge of breaking to a man that was fixed by a woman and then a broken man again. His character arc is fantastic, and it is elevated by Jackman's somber portrayal of Bannister.
Reminiscence also benefits from multiple little surprises thrown in about every thirty minutes. It will throw something at you that you did not expect, and change your perspective on everything that has happened before that. It makes for a film that has boring parts, but you are pulled back into the story once one of these twist reveals happens.
I also found the themes about memory and the past to be very poignant. The themes about loss and living in the past will really resonant with certain people, me being one of them. I always enjoy when films have a deeper meaning when you go below the surface, and I think Reminiscence does that very well.
Finally, this is just a cool movie. Science fiction can be really, really fun to watch when it's good, and I think there are times when Reminiscence is able to dip into the fun, cool part of sci-fi. There are monologues and lines of dialogue that are just awesome. For example, I absolutely loved the line that I put as my quote for this review. Go back up and read the entire thing. It's just a cool line. I also loved when it got extra creepy, adding to the psychological element. For example, the scene where Nick goes and talks to Walter's wife. If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. It's chilling, but also incredible.
Reminiscence does use the concept well at times, but when it isn't focusing on the memories and focuses more on the romance between Nick and Mae, it becomes a pretty boring mess. Largely because you can't really buy into the relationship between the two of them. They meet each other twice and then fall in love, which is just so unrealistic. And I understand it's a movie where people revisit past memories, but I simply was not invested in the central romance. Every time it would flash back into Nick's memories of Mae, I would begin to yawn.
Because of this, Reminiscence is extremely uneven. There are times when it can be a super fun sci-fi mystery thriller...but then there's the bad romance schlog that occurs every half hour or so. It's a roller coaster of a movie, but not always in a good way.
I also don't think that they payoff the themes right at all. The way that the film ends and the way that Nick's character finishes off makes sense for him, but does the opposite of what the themes would imply. When you have a character arc that contradicts the themes, that's a big problem. The script needed to decide to ixnay one of those two things so that the other can pay off in a satisfying way.
The final reveal of who the villain is can also feel a bit underwhelming. I won't really say anything, but the person who is revealed to be behind everything is not really a character that you care about at all. It feels like the villain could've been more fleshed out as a character so that we really feel something when it's revealed that he or she is behind it all.
During the middle act of the movie, it can get a little confusing at times when Nick is looking for Mae. In particular, there is one scene where you see Mae and Nick actually talks to her, but then that part is just completely ignored, as though nothing ever happened. I was really baffled for a while and still am about what happened during that scene.
Finally, there are a few too many plot conveniences and things that happen too easily. Nick watches memories of random people that are not connected to his current situation at all, but somehow they help him in his search for Mae. Once again, the script could've tightened things up if the writers had decided to be a bit more careful and not as lazy with the story.
Analogy and Final Score
Let's say Reminiscence is a baseball team. Half of the players are Hall of Fame players that come from teams like Minority Report and Total Recall. The coach of the team also does a great job. But the other half of the team that isn't Hall of Fame is complete garbage. In the end, they win a little more than half of their games.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 10+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 7.5/10
Directed by Lisa Joy
Released on August 20, 2021
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, sexual elements, language, disturbing themes and images
1 hour and 56 minutes
Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister
Rebecca Ferguson as Mae
Thandiwe Newton as Watts Sanders
Cliff Curtis as Cyrus Booth
Daniel Wu as Saint Joe
Marina de Tavira as Tamara Sylvan
Mojean Aria as Sebastian Sylvan
Brett Cullen as Walter Sylvan