Director: Mark Palansky
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Julia Ormond, Martin Donovan, Evelyne Brochu, Anton Yelchin, Matt Ellis, Henry Ian Cusick
MPAA Rating: (for bloody accident images, some violence, thematic material and brief strong language)
Running Time: 1:51
Release Date: 9/8/17 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | September 7, 2017
To be able to see an objective view of one's memories would be both a gift and a curse. The MacGuffin of Rememory is a device that allows for just that: A person puts some sensors on his or her head, and without any of the filters that our minds have placed on memories, the machine records an objective account of what the person actually saw and heard at a given moment in his or her life. This is one of those neat ideas that screenwriters devise and then believe is enough. The plot of director Mark Palansky and Mike Vukadinovich's screenplay is little more than a murder mystery, and it's one that doesn't even incorporate the central gimmick into the story enough for the concept of a memory-recording device to really matter.
It's an old-fashioned, analog plot, in which someone spends the movie doing basic detective work, masquerading as futuristic science-fiction. Sure, our protagonist gets his clues from the recorded memories of the various suspects in what appears to be a case of murder, but after that, it's a matter of piecing together which memories belong to whom, questioning people, and eliminating each red herring as the suspects clear their names. The device saves the amateur detective a few, inconvenient steps, but what's the point of having something so intriguing in a story if it's primarily used as a shortcut?
The screenplay never seems certain until the mystery has been resolved. At that point, the device comes into play to resolve the story that's beneath the mystery. That story, apparently, is the real point here, despite how Palansky and Vukadinovich keep it at bay until the movie's closing minutes. In those final minutes, though, it's a far more involving tale—about regret, living with grief and guilt, and seeking atonement—than anything that has come before it. One understands why the screenwriters have saved it for the epilogue of a detective story, since it puts the hero in a completely different light, but that only makes us wonder, when there's such a promising story beneath the surface, why they even bothered with the detective story in the first place.
The protagonist is Sam Bloom (Peter Dinklage), a model maker who's dealing with the death of his rock-star brother Dash (Matt Ellis). The brother was in a car crash while Sam was driving drunk. It's some time in the unspecified future, and Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan) has invented the aforementioned memory device. It's set to launch soon, but before that, he's found dead in his office, which is littered with bullet holes in the walls.
Sam met Gordon on a fateful night when he was contemplating suicide at a hotel. He tells Gordon's widow Carolyn (Julia Ormond) the story of how her husband saved his life that night, simply by talking to him, and Sam takes it upon himself to figure out what happened to Gordon. He takes Gordon's machine and a collection of recorded memories from the dead man's office to get started.
At this point, the basic structure and progression of the plot should be clear. Sam goes through the recordings of people who were in the office building around the time of Gordon's death. From their scattered memories, he notes names, places, and other identifying details to make a list of suspects, to whom he assigns a model and cards with the information (It's a bit strange that the movie gets as much play from plastic models as it does from a high-tech memory-recording machine, but here we are).
The suspects include Wendy (Evelyne Brochu), who was having an affair with Gordon, and Todd (the late Anton Yelchin), who repressed a terrible memory, only to have it brought to the forefront of his mind by Gordon's "therapy." The latter character raises, perhaps, the movie's only ethical quandary. In reality, though, the movie only raises these matters as a possible motive for each of the characters.
There are other suspects, of course, but they're eliminated from consideration almost as soon as Sam meets them or, in one case, her next of kin. At least one of these red herrings offers a bittersweet moment, in which an old man with a neurodegenerative disorders looks back at the happiness and loss of his life.
It's a scene from a different movie, essentially—one that actually has thought about the possibilities and consequences of using this device. The repercussions that matter to the central plot are mostly minor barriers to Sam's investigation. He wants to remember Dash's dying words and, in trying to record the memory (a process that keeps getting delayed for reasons that seem more a screenwriting trick than anything to do with Sam), ends up seeing hallucinations of his brother.
Whatever the movie has to say about memory, it tells us upfront through dialogue. What Rememory wants to show us about those ideas is constantly deferred for a routine mystery that only incorporates those ideas as plot devices. If there's a probing, thoughtful movie about the gift and curse of memory in here, it only shows up in the final scenes, when it's far too late.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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