Review: Reminiscence is Beautifully Shot But Lacks Substance

Reminiscence reunites The Greatest Showman‘s Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, in a dynamic that’s frustratingly similar to what we’ve already seen before. Here, Jackman plays Nick Bannister, a former soldier who now runs a business where people can pay to access their memories via a sensory deprivation tank, where they can submerge themselves in water and see their most cherished memories play out before them. And it’s all going swimmingly until Ferguson’s Mae, a captivating cabaret singer, walks in.

Mae approaches Nick claiming she’s lost her keys and needs to access the tank to find them, which is a simple enough request. Immediately, Nick seems to fall in love with her, despite barely knowing anything about Mae and while their performances are strong as ever it would have been more plausible if we’d seen their bond deepen further. Beyond some lustful gazes and some passionate scenes, there isn’t much to suggest love here, especially when Nick’s character barely knows anything about her.

In fact, Mae’s mysteriousness is the crux of the film and she soon disappears, leaving Nick blindsided and confused because people “don’t just disappear”. Concerned something has happened to her, he sets off on his own journey to track her down hoping for a romantic reunion. But he ends up going down a rabbit hole he certainly wasn’t expecting, launching the film into a sci-fi thriller with a number of twists and turns, which is where the real excitement begins. There are some well-choreographed fight scenes, exposing this new city to the dangerous and unforgiving place it really is, as Nick learns more and more about the city that shaped Mae.

Nick works alongside Emily “Watts” Sanders (Thandiwe Newton), a former soldier herself, who is a lot warier and tries to prevent him from chasing Mae and getting himself into danger, although naturally, he’s having none of it. I quite enjoyed the dynamic between these two characters and it was more believable than the romance which was supposed to be the center of the film, but perhaps this is because the duo simply had more screen time together. Either way, it makes me disappointed we didn’t get to see a proper romance blossom before it all kicked off.

Stylistically the film is absolutely gorgeous, set in a world where most of the city is flooded and you have to travel by boat to access various places. It has an air of Bioshock about it, a strange new world that is almost frozen in time, and water dominates your surroundings. Water is a huge theme in this film from the streets of Miami to Nick’s own sensory deprivation tanks, creating a sense of renewal throughout, although most people are reluctant to accept these big changes to their lives. It does pose some interesting questions a la Black Mirror and Inception, if you could relive memories, would you? Or would it simply drive you insane?

Reminiscence’s score should also be praised, proving once again that Ramin Djawadi doesn’t miss. Best known for his work on Game of Thrones and Westworld, where he also worked alongside the film’s writer-director Lisa Joy, the score provides drama and atmosphere and elevates the film in its most intense moments, especially during the later scenes. It’s just a shame that the score and the cinematography were much stronger than the plot on this occasion. By the time you find out what’s really going on, the narrative feels all over the place, and there are some scenes that feel a little far-fetched even for a sci-fi film.

There are definitely some poignant moments in the film, even when it comes to other characters that Nick encounters on his journey to find out the truth about Mae. As it happens she’s got herself caught up in a dangerous world, unsurprisingly, exposing more dark truths and hidden secrets from the citizens of this new Miami. It’s a scary and unforgiving place, and you can’t really blame Nick for wanting to escape into his love/lust for Mae.

Unfortunately, Reminiscence becomes too convoluted and raises the question of why Nick is still persisting despite the obvious danger and the various shady characters he must encounter in order to fulfill his goal. After a strong start, the film fizzles out, eventually giving us an ending that’s bittersweet yet didn’t make me feel anything, which felt like a crushing disappointment giving how it opened and suggested there’d be an emotional tug throughout. It’s beautiful to look at, and the performances are decent, but it lacks the substance I was hoping for based on its premise.

Rating: 2/5

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