By John Mulderig | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Part dystopian adventure, part neo-noir mystery, “Reminiscence” (Warner Bros.) is undone by its own sense of importance.
Along the path of its protagonist’s quest, moreover, a relationship that speedily turns sexual is just one of several factors that make writer-director Lisa Joy’s thriller fit for grown-ups only.
Though the phrase climate change is never invoked, it’s pretty clear from Joy’s script why the flooded and overheated Miami of the future in which it’s set — where people lead nocturnal lives to avoid the swelter of daytime — is in the state it is. Between the warmth, the wet and a series of wars in the recent past, existence is so miserable that people use advanced technology to retreat into earlier and better times.
Hard-bitten veteran Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) makes his living as an expert guide in that process, deploying his voice in the manner of a hypnotist to help clients access their cherished memories. A seemingly chance encounter with an alluring customer, nightclub singer Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), swiftly leads previously isolated Nick into an intense romance.
After their affair is abruptly broken off by Mae’s sudden disappearance, however, Nick becomes obsessed with tracking her down, despite the warnings of his business partner and best friend, Emily (Thandiwe Newton). Was Mae as innocent as she appeared to be or a femme fatale? Did she abscond of her own free will or was she abducted?
Dialogue burdened with pretentious philosophical reflections on the nature of time and the mechanics of memory make it unlikely that viewers will feel especially invested in Nick’s search. And Joy’s use of plot developments to depict all wealthy people as heartless, cowardly exploiters comes across as more than a little simplistic.
It’s taken for granted, of course, that Nick and Mae should tumble into bed together after two brief meetings. More unusually, perhaps, Nick also goes on to wreak torturous revenge on one of his adversaries, crooked cop Cyrus Booth (Cliff Curtis). Although Nick recognizes this as a transgression for which he must do penance, the underlying morality of the picture’s wrap-up remains murky.
Mature moviegoers willing to navigate such dubious material will find their reward a meager one. While “Reminiscence” offers some enjoyably moody moments — Mae’s performance of the Rodgers and Hart classic “Where or When” among them — the intervals between these rare highlights prove tedious.
The film contains much stylized violence, including gunplay and torture, a vengeance theme, semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, about a half-dozen instances each of profanity and milder swearing as well as numerous crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.