Reminiscence is not a perfect movie by any means, which is why you’ll see a mix of reviews ranging from people who truly enjoyed the film to those who couldn’t make it through the whole thing. The movie has an enjoyable storyline where they mystery is slowly revealed through memories in a noir fashion. While slow at times, the movie is still a treat to watch. However, perhaps the best part of the movie is the world-building and the stunning post-apocalyptic setting the film creates.
WARNING: This is a review of Reminiscence the movie, so there will be MAJOR spoilers.
The Flooded Cities Created a Breathtaking Visual
Reminiscence creates a unique, partially flooded post-apocalyptic setting (that some might argue is more mid-apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic.) Whichever viewpoint you take, there’s no doubt that the apocalyptic theme is a main character skillfully woven throughout the movie. One of the things I enjoyed about this movie was how central the apocalypse was to the storyline, but it wasn’t a movie about an apocalypse. Rather, the expansion of the oceans and the ever-changing coastal lines provided a backdrop that served to influence the characters in significant ways. Unlike other apocalypse tales that are more “in your face” about the end of the world, this one simply told the story of a slowly suffocating angst that every member of humanity was having to live under, one way or another.
The seas are rising and the days are getting hotter. Most of the storyline takes place in Miami, although a chunk of it also is seen in New Orleans. Some neighborhoods and homes have been completely engulfed by the ocean. Others now live in upper levels, while the lower levels are flooded. The streets are heavy with water. The rich have walled themselves inside cities that force poor regions to face even greater flooding. Rather than driving from location to location, you often have to take a boat — even through the city. And the days are now so hot, most people stay inside and sleep during the day and live their normal lives at night.
And of course, there’s the seasteader who provides a haven of safety in a chaotic world. How many apocalypse aficionados haven’t, at some time or another, longed for the seasteading life?
Many people who didn’t like the movie at all commented on the beauty of the setting and how they would love to see storylines with other characters in this same world. There was something about this apocalypse that truly hit close to home for me. This is a future that could actually happen. This one feels more “real” than the asteroid hitting the earth or the zombie doomsday. I’m almost pre-emptively feeling nostalgic for the present day, knowing that something like this might loom in the future.
The Storyline Was Filled with Noir & Nostalgia
#Reminiscence made one thing clear & it’s that I LOVE Lisa Joy as a storyteller. A sexy & stylish mind-bending odyssey that harkens back to noir classics such as The Big Sleep. #Westworld fans will love it as Joy continues her pursuit of philosophy, memory, & the mind. pic.twitter.com/BACS0D9Jcg
— Griffin Schiller (@griffschiller) August 18, 2021
This was a noir-heavy film that was heavy with nostalgia as the driving motivator. While the plot was sometimes slow, the beauty of the apocalyptic world allowed me to breathe in the setting without getting too annoyed at the pace. (There was one moment, near the end, when I was surprised to see how much time was left, and didn’t feel thrilled about that realization like I might for another movie.)
The premise was a creative use of memory technology to slowly unravel the mystery of why Mae disappeared from Nick’s life. Of course with Lisa Joy at the helm, it was heavy with Westworld callbacks. Not only was Watts portrayed by Thandiwe Newton (who is Maeve on Westworld), but Elsa was portrayed by Angela Sarafyan, Maeve’s best friend in Westworld. And of course, the creative use of memories that don’t tell the whole story right away was clearly reminiscent (ha, see what I did there?) of one of Westworld’s storytelling methods.
Since I love Westworld, I didn’t mind any of that.
Some people have said that this movie was VERY similar to Strange Days from 1995. I haven’t seen that movie, so I can’t comment on the comparison. But it sounds like it definitely influenced the movie, based on what others have said.
I adored @lisajoynolan’s #Reminiscence a beautiful, sleek, imaginative & emotional Sci-fi Neo Noir that I couldn’t get enough of!! With an Incredible score, a powerful performance from Jackman, & Joy’s Layered directing, I will be championing this one all of 2021. pic.twitter.com/deIx88yjxU
— Zach Pope (@popetheking) August 20, 2021
Although many memories told the story of Nick and Mae’s romance, the movie still fell a bit short in not completely selling me on how intense their love was. At first, Hugh Jackman’s character came off as a lovesick teenager who had been dumped for the very first time and couldn’t believe someone he loved would deceive him. I found myself siding more with Watts, who wanted him to stop his pursuit. I think selling us more on how genuine her love felt to him might have helped me buy his intense obsession better.
They did make up for this near the end as we got to know Mae better. Mae had made quite the change in her life, from being addicted to the baca drug to finding freedom and strength. She was ultimately pulled back in, and betraying Nick was like betraying herself. Which made her last scene so heartbreaking, as Mae said her last words to her captor, knowing that Nick would one day be standing in his place. The intensity of that moment made me feel genuine sadness that they would always be apart. I just wish there had been another scene earlier in the movie that gave me that same feeling, so I could root for them more.
What they DID sell me on from the beginning was the allure of the past. By showing the veteran who went back into his memories simply to revisit his dog, I truly understood how addictive (and compelling) it could be to relive your past.
And I absolutely loved the twist where they revealed just how in-depth Mae’s deception had been, going all the way back to her creating a memory that Nick would find which showed her singing a song from his childhood. That was some next level deception. And while I didn’t think she could be redeemed after that, she truly was.
While the pacing of the movie was at times slow, there were some enjoyable action moments interspersed that helped keep the viewer engaged. Those action scenes weren’t without their faults. (No, I didn’t believe that Nick could actually see the bullet as it crossed in front of him in the aquarium.) But I enjoyed seeing Watts save the day and play the role of the badass. I enjoyed seeing Nick plunge the depths of the ocean to save his love. And throughout all those close calls, I remembered how the memory tech could bring back memories from the dead. So I was never 100% certain that Nick would make it out of his encounters alive. That was a nice touch.
The Ending Was a Bit Dissatisfying
For me, the most dissatisfying part was the bittersweet way the movie ended. Nick had to be punished for burning the dirty cop’s memory, and it ultimately ended up being a death sentence of sorts. But he chose his own sentence, which was to live in a memory of his true love on repeat.
I wasn’t quite sure why he had to be punished. We were told early on that dirty cops didn’t even matter and the police and lawyers didn’t care about that guy. So for Nick to face an extreme punishment based on his fate seemed odd. Perhaps if Nick had simply killed him, he would not have been punished. But instead, he was given a reason to be forced to live in his memory forever.
In the end, it wasn’t quite clear how Nick could survive in the tank for the rest of his life. That pretty much required a suspension of disbelief right there. But Nick was happy (even if it was a happy delusion), and even Watts found her own happiness in the end. Only Mae did not find peace or joy, but I guess if we “end” the movie in the middle, as we’re advised to do several times, then we can walk away feeling happy for the all the characters involved.