Reminiscence is the directorial debut of Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy. Co-written with her husband, Jonathan Nolan — who is best known for his work with his brother (and one of my favorite directors), Christopher Nolan — the film is a beautifully shot, modern-noir crossed with a crime drama and a romantic saga.
Hugh Jackman plays Nick Bannister, who runs a memory retrieval business with his alcoholic partner, Emily Watts played by Thandwie Newton. His invention allows customers to tap into the happy moments of their past and detectives to retrieve evidence from crime suspects’ minds. While submersed in water tanks with Nick’s device strapped to their heads, the clients’ memories play as 3-D projections in the middle of his studio and are stored on discs. This allows Nick and Emma to see into their patrons’ past. (I found this part a bit hokey. If such a service did exist, why would any of us want perfect strangers to see our memories?)
The plot is classic noir — a beautiful woman with a dark past mesmerizes and lures a hapless man into her web of intrigue. As with all great femme fatales, Rebecca Ferguson is pure sex. As Mae she has Jackman’s Nick, “at hello” when she slinks into his studio claiming she has lost her keys. A love affair ensues between them. But when Mae suddenly disappears after stealing his heart, Nick turns to his own memory device to try to solve the mystery of her disappearance. You can just hear Bogart saying “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine” as Nick grieves Mae’s absence. And again, in classic noir fashion, Nick discovers that the woman he loves has a double life and some very dark secrets.
The mashup of and homages to great noirs of the past mixed with a sci-fi mind travel plot, romance and love scenes with Jackman and some action thrown in to boot, made me love this film. However, in the writing of Mae’s character and this movie, the duo should have channeled Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in “Double Indemnity” not Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in “An Affair to Remember”! I much preferred the film noir and action parts of the film to the mushy, smaltzy romantic ending. But that said, this is one of my favorite films of summer 2021.