Reminiscence is a 2021 American neo-noir scifi thriller drama film written and directed by Lisa Joy, in her feature directorial debut. Joy – together with spouse Jonathan Nolan – were the showrunners for the HBO scifi TV series, Westworld. And of course, Christopher Nolan is Joy’s brother-in-law and one cannot but feel that Reminiscence shares – or attempts to, in any case – similar high concept scifi tropes as Nolan’s Inception and Tenet.
However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that Reminiscence lacks the tight narrative that Nolan is best known for, and instead is a poorly paced exercise in film noir, with obvious references to Chinatown and Blade Runner scattered throughout its rather clichéd storyline. To wit, at its most basic, involves a private detective, a femme fatale, a decaying cityscape and corruption.
Hugh Jackman plays Nicolas “Nick” Bannister, a private investigator of the mind, navigating the world of the past (hence, the title and the scifi construct of Reminiscence) until of course when his life is changed by a new client named Mae (the obligatory femme fatale, played by Rebecca Ferguson).
Reminiscence is set in the near future Miami where climate change has turned the city into a sinking metropolis and the increasing temperatures have transformed its inhabitants into nocturnal creatures. An intriguing setting that at least keeps the film interesting even when the ponderous stereotypical plot threatens to squeeze out all excitement.
But that alone is not enough to distract especially from the truly awful dialogue that Joy manages to assault each character with – truly cornball philosophical platitudes that it seems every single character must spout. Does everybody have some melancholy nugget to expound upon in the near future? The dialogue is so unnatural and unrealistic that it is difficult to take the film seriously most of the time! And that is without even mentioning Bannister’s rather awkward voice-over – didn’t anyone learn any lessons from the original Blade Runner cut? No??
That all said, though the third act is fairly predictable, there is a pleasing romantic twist of sorts that provides at least a moment of enjoyment before the crushing anti-climax of the denouement strips Reminiscence of all meaningfulness. It’s fair to say that Reminiscence is so bad that it makes the uneven Tenet look like a masterpiece! Avoid at all cost!
Now showing in cinemas and streaming on HBO Max.
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