Reminiscence (2021) A (Right On Time!) Review

Given the COVID era, “new” movies are being released in odd ways. Tenet, for example, was released to theaters before quickly being streamed. I suppose there was money to be made doing the streaming thing because several films have been released “simultaneously” to steaming and the theaters.

I haven’t seen many -actually none– of the streamed features because until yesterday, I didn’t have any of the various streaming services dedicated to movie releases.

So yesterday I updated my current TV/cable service and, in the process, was given a free year of HBO Max. Suddenly, I was able to dip my toe into the new movie scene and discovered that Reminiscence was available for a few days more (the simultaneous streaming ain’t forever, folks!) and so I gave it a shot.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, here’s the trailer:

Reminiscence features Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, and Thadiwe Newton and was written and directed by Lisa Joy. Mrs. Joy is married to Jonathan Nolan, the brother of famed director Christopher Nolan, and, like her spouse, is a well established screenwriter who was involved in, among others, the HBO series Westworld.

With such well regarded talent involved, I figured the film had to be at the very least intriguing. There was, however, one other element that made me curious to see the film: It was filmed in and around Miami and Miami Beach and I knew about it when, just around the time COVID was becoming a thing, staff from the movie came around our business on Miami Beach to have us sign a waiver for some scenes they were going to film on a nearby building’s roof.

(The scene, if you’re curious, involves Hugh Jackman romancing Rebecca Ferguson while on said rooftop).

Anyway, Reminiscence is set in a near future where global warming has caused the sea levels to rise and Miami and Miami Beach are inundated. Hugh Jackman and Thandiwe Newton play “memory” detectives, people who delve into other people’s memories. At times they do this for the police when they’re trying to get information from someone who may not be willing or able to give it.

On the side, they offer their memory services to people who want to …uh… reminisce about something that occurred in their lives, be it for the sake of nostalgia or anything else.

Both our protagonists are presented as generally good souls, allowing some people to use their services for free while eeking out their existence.

And then, one day, appears Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) with a very dubious request: She says she lost her keys and would like our protagonists to do a memory search to find where she left them.

Now, let me stop right there: She arrives into this business which delves into people’s memories to just find some… missing keys??!?

I have to say, this bit really kills me. What a seriously weird misstep in an otherwise reasonably well thought out/written story. It just seems so damn ordinary –trivial– to get a story going but that’s what we’re given.

Nick Bannister (Jackman) is of course instantly attracted to Mae and they romance for a few months and then… she vanishes.

No explanation, no words.

What follows is Bannister using his memory machine as he increasingly desperately attempts to figure out what has became of her.

I won’t get into too many more details but suffice to say there is plenty of stuff revealed in the course of the movie, including sorting out Mae’s ultimate moral compass.

There is plenty of neat stuff to be found and some truly poetic lines but sadly the film ultimately left me dissatisfied.

To begin, as good as the actors are, I found it hard to see beyond who they were. I’ll try not to get into too many spoilers, but I never felt the characters -possibly because of the actors involved- would surprise me. By the end of the film, lo and behold, they did not. They were what I thought they were and there was no hidden layers to them.

Further, the mystery, which could have been intriguing as hell, winds up being not quite as gripping and emotionally involving as it should be. In this it felt like the fault lies in the way the film was presented, which ultimately falls on Lisa Joy’s direction. There is a lack of urgency and gritty darkness to grip us as viewers… and that’s a real shame because the elements were there.

In the end, I came away from Reminiscence feeling it was an average film with some good ideas but which lacked the emotional punch needed to pull me as a viewer along.

Its a shame. What could and should have been a movie right up my alley winds up being one I can’t recommend.