Reminiscence review: A cautionary tale of nostalgia and love

·3-min read

Length: 116 minutes
Director: Lisa Joy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Thandiwe Newton, Rebecca Ferguson, Daniel Wu

In theatres 18 August (Singapore)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Imagine that there was a machine you could use, that could transport you to any time and any place in your memories. Would you use it to revisit your fondest memories (and potentially get lost in them forever)?

Reminiscence is about just that. As director Lisa Joy's cinematic debut, the film is all about delving into the past, and how memories of one's past plays a part in the present, even affecting the future to a certain degree. Although the premise hints at a deeper and more substantial plot, don't be expecting anything close to Christopher Nolan or Martin Scorsese.

Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in Reminiscence. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in Reminiscence. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Hugh Jackman sheathes his claws for a desperate romantic's velvet gloves, playing Nick Bannister, an army veteran turned businessman in a dystopian Miami, where everything is flooded and wealthy land barons lease and sell dry land for immense profit.

Nick runs a unique business — charging customers who wish to relive their past with a special time machine that allows the user to go back to a specific memory and relive it as many times as they want. With his feisty assistant Watts (Thandiwe Newton), he finds his life turned on its head when a stunningly beautiful customer Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) comes in after business hours and asks to search her memories for lost keys.

The premise of going through memories is a brilliant one, although, alas, its full potential is unfortunately lost when Nick goes down the rabbit hole and falls deeply in love with Mae. Jackman reunited with Ferguson for Reminiscence after starring in The Greatest Showman together.

Hugh Jackman in Reminiscence. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Nick Bannister helps customers relive their memories with a special machine. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

What Reminiscence does well is its subtle and elegant rhetoric, narrated at points in the films by Jackman, alluding to time and the past. Although the two leads had much time together, there wasn't much chemistry that they had in comparison to their relationship in The Greatest Showman; their interactions felt somewhat robotic and dramatised just for the sake of it.

Daniel Wu also stars in the film as a gangster peddling a form of powerful drug equivalent to cocaine. His role in the film was rather suspect and felt forced, especially when he started speaking random bits of Mandarin which felt dubiously contrived.

But in the words of Nick Bannister, there is nothing more addictive than the past. Drugs, and even love, fall by the wayside when one is given the choice to enact and go through the fondest memories of one's life. The film ends on a rather bittersweet note, which might feel anti-climactic for some.

Reminiscence strikes a chord regarding nostalgic yearning, which is something we can especially identify with in times of a pandemic. It is a cautionary, though somewhat superficial, tale of excess when it comes to all things that can be addictive, that urges us to live in the present and in the moment.

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