15 Sep 2021

Review: Reminiscence

From At The Movies, 7:33 pm on 15 September 2021

Reminiscence is the debut feature film of writer-director Lisa Joy, known - if at all - as the co-creator of the TV series Westworld.

It is rather hard to find, playing in only a handful of cinemas here. In the States it did terrible business, despite some enthusiastic reviews.

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Photo: Screenshot

Reminiscence opens in Miami - but not Miami as we know it. The waters have risen, and now much of the city is made up of canals, like Venice.

We meet Nick, played by Hugh Jackman, who's found a way to make the new setup work for him.

We're told - much of the trailer is made up of exposition - that after global warming affected the coast, war broke out, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and the only thing in high demand was memories.

Nick and his offside Watts - Thandiwe Newton - have developed a device that can access their clients' pasts.

In the miserable present, the past became the biggest drug on the market. People would hire Nick to send them back to their fondest memories.

Then one day - of all the memory-jogging venues in all the world, she has to walk into Nick's.

Her name's Mae, and she needs to go back in time to find where she left some very important keys. Nick discovers she's a club singer with a shady past. A singer who just happens to do a great version of one particular song.

No, it's not 'As Time Goes By', though Rodgers and Hart's 'Where or When' is from roughly the same time. But Nick falls for Mae just as hard as Rick fell for Ilsa in Casablanca.

In fact, like Ingrid Bergman, Rebecca Ferguson is Swedish, and she and Jackman play the Bogart-Bergman thing for all it's worth.

Reminiscence keeps hitting film-buff notes throughout, particularly when - like in all good noir mysteries - Mae suddenly vanishes.

Nick is driven mad wondering what happened, refusing any help from Girl Friday Watts.

And who are these shady figures who also seem to be on her tail?

Reminiscence is a parade of plot devices from classic old movies, of course - particularly movies that dealt with the deceptively corrosive nature of memories.

The look is all Seventies sci-fi - like the original Blade Runner as Nick chases Mae through the mean, watery streets of the future. There are sinister night-clubs, full of dangerous guys like Cliff Curtis.

There's also rather more punch-drunk voice-over than you need. It was too much narration that nearly scuppered the original Blade Runner, you may remember, before Ridley Scott managed to get his hands back on the film and get rid of it all.

Like Blade Runner, Reminiscence is a lot better than its early American reputation may suggest, but it's not perfect. It's a bit long, the ending may not be to all tastes.

But it's a real movie, with real characters played by real stars - Newton is particularly cool. And, ironically for a film about the dangerous appeal of the past, it's absolutely soaking in nostalgia.

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