Film Review: Reminiscence

Mild spoilers ahead.

Today, I’m taking you back a couple of years, as we take a look at Lisa Joy’s directorial debut, Reminiscence. It’s a film that I never got the chance to catch at the cinema but I remember being intrigued by the trailer at the time and it looked like a concept that I could get behind, I’m a sucker for all things noir. The film ended up being a colossal failure at the box office and the critical reception was mixed at best, steering more towards negative. It’s probably a large reason as to why I didn’t rush to watch it when it was released on home video, but after a couple of years of waiting I found myself with nothing to do one evening so I thought I’d finally take the plunge and watch it!

Set not too far in the future, climate change has caused the sea levels to rise and daytime temperatures to soar, meaning cities have now become nocturnal. Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is a business owner who sells a unique product; memories. He has a machine that allows the user to relive memories from the past, extremely helpful in a world where people yearn for nostalgia and to remember a time where they were happiest. It’s a good living, but that all changes when a new client called Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) walks in to his office, changing the trajectory of his life forever.

To kick things off, I want to make it clear that I did not think this film was anywhere near as bad as some of the reviews made out. I really enjoyed the concept, it’s visually impressive and the performances are really good. However, there is a distinct feeling throughout that Reminiscence is trying to do way too much which makes it a bit of a mess narratively. It’s trying to be a love story, it’s trying to be an intriguing mystery, it’s trying to be an action thriller. It doesn’t necessarily deliver any of these components poorly but there simply wasn’t enough time to make any of them stand out. What you end up with is a film that almost waters itself down in an attempt to include all of these elements, when it would have been far better suited to focusing on one or two of these at the most and making them great. The setting of this film already reminds you of films such as Blade Runner, but the problem is those films do what Reminiscence is trying to do, but much better.

The mystery part of the film, while serviceable, isn’t anything groundbreaking and I felt that it could have utilised the memory aspect better. But that is just part of a wider issue which is the writing, it just leaves you craving more but it relies too much on exposition and has too many half-baked ideas that could never reach their potential. There is not enough time afforded to the relationship between Nick and Mae to really buy in to what he is doing.

The thing that I kept coming back to was thinking how much better this could have worked as a TV series. Lisa Joy is best known for her work on Westworld, although I think that show was underwhelming beyond it’s excellent first season, there is no doubt that a concept like Reminiscence would have worked far better on the small screen when it has far more time to build up those layers that would have made this story a far more engaging one.

Overall, I found this to be a very frustrating film. I didn’t dislike it and there is enough here to warrant a watch if you’ve got nothing better to do, but there is no doubt whatsoever that this could have been so much more and there is a huge amount of wasted potential, especially when you have a powerhouse like Hugh Jackman in the leading role. I can’t help but agree with a lot of other reviews out there, this just reminds you of similar films that were a lot better, meaning Reminiscence ends up just about floating in a pool of mediocrity, that is not a good place to be and is likely a factor as to why it completely flopped at the box office.

Perhaps Lisa Joy will get a shot at redemption one day in the feature film arena… You can’t fault her ambition, but if this is the best she has to offer, I think it’s safe to say she’s better off sticking to TV!

I give Reminiscence a 5/10.


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