Reminiscense (2021)

"The past doesn’t haunt us. Wouldn’t even recognize us. If there are ghosts to be found, it’s us who haunt the past.""The past doesn’t haunt us. Wouldn’t even recognize us. If there are ghosts to be found, it’s us who haunt the past."

“The past doesn’t haunt us. Wouldn’t even recognize us. If there are ghosts to be found, it’s us who haunt the past.”

When Reminiscence begins, the monotoned narration of how this dystopian future came to be sets the tone for the film in writer/director Lisa Joy’s directorial debut. Set with a neo-noir backdrop and an ambitious premise, Reminiscence fails to deliver on all that it promises to be. Even the marketing for the film is sub-par at best – doomed from the start thanks to the horrid release plan of the day and date structure Warner Bros. put in place for their entire 2021 slate of films, the film couldn’t scrape together two legs to stand on, rather ending up being dragged across the finish line to its release date. 

The line spoken by main character and narrator Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) “You’re going on a journey” perfectly sums up this film – it’s certainly a journey, dragged out kicking and screaming over a period of 116 minutes, whether is a good one, remains to be seen. Due to climate change, the sea has risen forcing massive flooding to occur along with scorching high temperatures that force people to hibernate during the daytime hours. Throughout the runtime that’s just shy of 2 hours, the pacing of this nostalgia addicted story makes the film feel even longer than it actually is. Lisa Joy constructs each scene that lingers just a little too long for its own good. When it’s time to move on to the next plot point, the camera stays firmly planted, giving more time to a scene that overstays its welcome.


Within in the scene itself is another story, the vintage ascetic Joy chooses to use to create atmosphere pairs well with the dystopian neo-noir world. Colors are crisp and clean with emphasis on the production design of futuristic Miami where Nick and his partner Watts (Thandiwe Newton) reside and work. Both Nick and Watts are veterans, of which war, is not specified nor matters to the plot, just like the flooded city, and run a business that allows people to relive specific moments in their life repeatedly if they so choose. It’s a thriving business because of how the world has changed – reliving the past, good or bad is something we all do, whether we like to admit it or not.

Reminiscence overpromises its convoluted story. Plenty is set up only to be completely ignored or forgotten immediately after it happens. The basic premise is, that takes 3 quarters of the film to reveal itself in the simplest of terms, Sebastian Sylvan (Mojean Aria) hire’s Cyrus Boothe (Cliff Curtis) to kill his stepbrother so his entire father’s fortune can be inherited solely by him. And then Nick is thrown into the mix to get the memories of his clients necessary by using Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) to seduce him. All of this while setting up a narrative that feels derivative of genre films that have come before it. And the messy plot that deals with time makes sense as Lisa Joy has close ties to the master of time manipulation and confusion in films in Christopher Nolan.  

I couldn’t help but get strong Inception The Matrix and Blade Runner vibes from the machine used to harness those memories and the world these characters live in. 

Aside from the lifeless narration by Jackman, he carries the film on his back for the entirety of the film. Coming off a 17-year stint of playing one of the most memorable comic book characters, Jackman no longer must kill himself with diet and exercise, but he still looks like he retained all that muscle from playing Logan. Joy’s dialogue is stale and messy, and the direction doesn’t help in how the dialogue is spoken. It’s as if each character was told to speak like a robot – Ferguson and Newton especially sound lifeless – doing the best with what they were given. 


Beyond its main theme of addiction and obsession, whether to nostalgia and the past or to a neurotic called “Baca”, Reminiscence is anti-climactic from where the first act starts to the destination that we end up at. It’s a ride that says it’s a rollercoaster, looks like a rollercoaster but ends up being a lazy river instead. In its resolution, none of the stakes that are promised feel remotely complete, leaving a sense of false satisfaction when all is said and done. 

The ambition is there, that’s not the issue. The issue is the execution of the ambition.  Joy brings a ton of potential and promise to her directorial debut but a lot of it is underdeveloped only to get lost in the shuffle with how much is happening on screen at once. Before the film even establishes its own identity – spotting other inspirations from previous films is enough to distract from the world Joy creates.

Reminiscence is just another unlucky bystander in the global pandemic. A pre-pandemic world, this film might have had a better chance to be seen by a larger audience but ultimately the circumstance is just another element that can be attributed to the film’s downfall.  

To be honest, this film comes and goes, as soon as the credits roll, the memories of what happened are quickly faded to black that’s not worthy of getting in that tank to relive.

Written By: Lisa Joy

Directed By: Lisa Joy

Cinematography: Paul Cameron

Music: Ramin Djawadi

Release Date: August 20, 2021

Running Time: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 37%

My Score out of 5: 1 out of 5

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