Reminiscence (2021) movie review
From writer/director Lisa Joy, one of the creators of HBO’s Westworld (2016-), Reminiscence is set in a bleak future where those looking for a better world look back through their own memory, instead of ahead. The film stars Hugh Jackman as Nick, a specialist in this literally retrospective technology. When the woman he loves goes missing, he will begin searching through his own memories to find her, only to stumble into something larger than he expected… Reminiscence was released this past weekend, but according to box office sales, you probably didn’t see it…
The film did receive a mixed reception (learning towards the negative), and like its competition The Protégé and The Night House (good movie, go see it), totally bombed at the box office. That said, while its HBO Max release probably didn’t help it, I do see this film becoming a future cult classic of the sci-fi genre. Reminiscence holds many of the marks that helped similar (albeit better) films to eventual success, and while the film could be better, I think it is already a little underappreciated… That said, you probably don’t need to pay a full ticket price to see it.
Right off the bat, one of the things I really admired about the film was the overall world in which it was set. Sure we’ve seen the typical near-dystopian world before, and in the vein of other sci-fi films, Reminiscence does feel a lot like Blade Runner, especially with its reliance on things like analogue technology. But I think the idea of a world stuck in the past being given to the audience using that idea is fairly interesting!
On top of that, the oceans have swallowed up a bunch of the coasts, leaving floored streets and buildings half underwater- I mean that’s a cool concept. Does it matter? Kinda. Sure it doesn’t contribute to the story, but it helps set the growing despair in the characters that continue to rely on the technology that does drive the story! It’s a bit like the overpopulation problem in Blade Runner. Does it matter? Nope! Does it significantly add to the worldbuilding? You bet.
Reminiscence also looks really sharp! The cinematography, visual effects, and lighting all pull you in visually, making the things that aren’t actually that interesting on screen at least appear captivating. Tack on the neo-nior themes and tone thanks to some actually compelling narration and you have a film that really works to keep you interested! Ramin Djawadi slow, ambient score also works to really sell the feel of the world that the characters live in. That said, I’ve heard better from him.
Where the film falls apart is that story I keep mentioning. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are actually interesting thanks to strong performances from the entire cast, especially Hugh Jackman and Thandiwe Newton! It’s just that the journey they are on- isn’t that interesting. Sure trying to find a girl who he met, fell in love with, and lost is interesting. And the inception-esque style of investigation is a unique angle. But once you start journeying down the rabbit hole, the larger story that we find- it’s a bit average. The film ends up biting off more than it can chew, trying to be more meaningful than it set out to be with none of the sentiment of story-building for that payoff to matter.
Still, I enjoyed the film. Despite middling storytelling that never feel as interesting as it could be, the rest of the filmmaking tries hard to make up for it. Strong performances, interesting visually, a world that feels original, and characters that we actually care about following (somehow)- it all leads to an anticlimactic climax that made us at least appreciate the journey. So again, I don’t think you need to run out to see it. That said, I would watch it again and maybe consider owning it to go right alongside my other cult classic sci-fi films. So yeah, if you’ve got HBO Max or you can be patient enough for Redbox, check out Reminiscence! It’s decent! 6/10.
So Reminiscence? Did you see it? (I mean nobody did, but that’s our usual thing…) Anyway yeah, what did you think? And what is your favorite underrated sci-fi film? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more, be sure to let us know what else we should talk about in the comments!
-review by Ryan Prince