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Review: ‘Reminiscence’ is Ambitious, Flawed and Ultimately Forgettable

August 19, 2021Ben MK

As the co-creator of HBO's wildly successful series, Westworld, Lisa Joy is no stranger to the sci-fi genre. Now, with her feature directorial debut Reminiscence, Joy is trading Evan Rachel Wood's tortured android protagonist for a tortured human one played by Hugh Jackman. But does this television auteur's leap to the big screen live up to expectations, or does it bite off more than it can chew?

Set in a near-future Miami ravaged by the effects of climate change, the story follows Nick Bannister (Jackman), a war veteran who's turned his familiarity with a technology known as Reminiscence into a profitable little business for himself and his parter Watts (Thandiwe Newton). Once a tool used for interrogations, Nick and Watts have repurposed the hardware — which involves partially immersing subjects in water while stimulating their brains with electrical impulses — to allow their clients to revisit their most precious memories as if they were re-living them in-person. However, when a mysterious and alluring woman named Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) wanders into their office one day, it sets Nick on a journey that will either result in his salvation or end with his destruction.

Even though they've only just met, Nick feels strangely connected to Mae, and the pair soon find themselves romantically involved. So when Mae suddenly vanishes, Nick is virtually lost. Desperate to uncover any clue whatsoever, he begins to use the Reminiscence on himself, probing his own memories of his time with Mae in an attempt to solve the mystery of her disappearance. In doing so, though, he unwittingly becomes entangled in a murder conspiracy involving a corrupt cop (Cliff Curtis), a drug kingpin (Daniel Wu), a despised land developer (Brett Cullen) and his mistress (Angela Sarafyan). And when the past events he's been investigating literally catches up with him, Nick must find the courage to confront the truth head on.

A noir mystery with a science fiction edge, the result evokes everything from the works of Philip K. Dick to the films of Christopher Nolan (who happens to be Joy's brother-in-law), with a dash of ABC's now defunct show, The Catch, thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, however, Reminiscence is neither as elegantly constructed nor as engrossing as any of its inspirations, instead relying largely on the big budget chemistry of its two leads, Jackman and Ferguson, to keep audiences enthralled. At times, this works, but for the most part, it will leave viewers rolling their eyes. For as Mae says to Nick in one of the movie's emotionally climactic scenes, "People like us don't fall in love, we plummet..." And when Reminiscence plummets, it plummets hard.

That said, the film isn't without its redeeming qualities, not the least of which are the lavish production and sound design, both of which are vital to keeping moviegoers immersed in Joy's elaborate, on-screen illusion of murder, lust and betrayal. It's just too bad that the technology depicted in the film doesn't exist in real life, as none of it manages to prevent Reminiscence from being anything but forgettable.

Reminiscence releases August 20th, 2021 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 56 min.

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