I had the pleasure of watching Reminiscence last night. I went in with no preconceived ideas about the film, having no idea what it was about. I was surprised to find that instead of another splashy sci-fi action/adventure-thriller, I got an excellent tribute in story and style to the classic movies referred to as film noir. This film represents a modern take on noir, having all the earmarks of that dark, often gloomy, sub-genre. Reminiscence has most if not all of the requisite ingredients of that type of film on full display from almost the moment it begins. In many ways, this well-paced mystery/suspense/thriller reminds me of Body Heat (1981), another excursion exploring human nature, along these lines from the recently past century.
The film’s narrative takes place in and around a future Miami, now semi flooded and transformed into a Venice-type city where many streets are waterways. This soggy setting has the effect of adding to the film’s dark mood and shadowy environments, with the activities of its characters set mostly at night. Add to that a device Referred to as ‘the tank’ that bears a resemblance to a modified sensory deprivation tank that plays a central role in the plot, and you have the total of elements that qualify this film as science fiction.
It’s not just visuals that contribute to my suspicions that this film was intentionally made as a tribute to one of my favorite sub-genres. The film’s narrative, a mystery, and tale of obsession is also a conversation about memory and how sometimes, instead of moving on, we attempt to recreate and relive our youth. It’s a reminder that memories should stay in the past and making sure the love you feel is real. The film’s narrative also includes many ingredients that seem to point to that. For example, the early introduction of a mysterious and beautiful woman into the plot is one of the oldest tricks in the books for films of this type. Substituting in place of a hard-boiled detective is the film’s unsuspecting chief protagonist suddenly thrust into the role of a gumshoe. He thinks he is the hero in this story, coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress. The film even goes so far as to add another classic ingredient in the form of his loyal co-worker and partner that, in some ways, is smarter than he is and hangs around for reasons of her own. Film noir has always been about people feeling trapped by circumstances with no way out but death and despair that seems almost inevitable. Here the film’s main character at least recognizes he is rushing headlong into his own doom.
Not familiar with this title? Reminiscence is a 2021 American neo-noir science fiction film written and directed by Lisa Joy in her feature directorial debut. Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, and Daniel Wu. It follows a man who uses a machine that can see people’s memories to try and find his missing girlfriend. Joy also produces alongside her husband and creative partner Jonathan Nolan.
Being a big fan of this particular sub-genre, overall, iI enjoyed this film very much. Fans looking for something more overtly science fiction might not enjoy it as well. I thought the cast did an excellent job, and I really enjoyed the intentionally surreal and dream-like quality that pervades much of the movie.