“Reminiscence” gets an immediate jumpstart on its embrace of the importance of memory with the casting of Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. Any moviegoer who saw the last time the pair starred together in “The Greatest Showman” will have an instant recall to their connection.
It was so beautifully displayed in that film when Jackson’s P.T. Barnum is emotionally stunned the first time he sees Jenny Lind (Ferguson) sing. That scene is an indelible movie moment.
That means the moment her character of Mae walks into Nick Banister’s (Jackman) life in this latest offering, there is an explosion of recognition and nostalgia. That’s like getting a delectable appetizer before an incredibly satisfying meal even starts.
Banister runs a shop in Miami in a not-so-distant world where rising waters and border wars have left the world with little reason to look forward. Their best option is to look backwards to memories of better times and that’s where Banister comes into play.
His machine allows the subject to relive the best moments of his or her life. Banister also learns it is a way to solve the mystery of what happens when Mae expectantly walks out of his life.
Banister uses his own memories and the past thoughts of others to piece together the clues that he hopes will lead him to Mae. The only problem he faces is that what often starts as a good memory doesn’t always end happily.
First-time feature film director/writer Lisa Joy has quietly woven together a love story with a dystopian vision and wrapped it in a cautionary tale. The fact the pacing is a little slow crashes against the traditional summer offering where fast action and big explosions are the norm.
It is OK to be a little methodical when the story survives on such a heavy romantic beat. The chemistry first exposed in “The Greatest Showman” between Jackman and Ferguson expands into a heart-touching formula.
Jackman has a gift for making the love his character feels come across as very real. It helps when he’s on screen with Ferguson who has the kind of timeless look that breaks hearts and starts wars.
At its heart, “Reminiscence” is a time travel movie but it isn’t hampered with all the pitfalls those types of movies end up facing. The story can shift to a past time and place but because this is just the manifestation of a memory, there is no way the timeline can be altered. There are strict rules when dealing with memories and no one involved with this project ever forgets that.
The concept of delving in and out of memories creates an additional level of mystery in “Reminiscence.” Blurred lines between what is unfolding in present time and what is a memory creates a clever avenue for the story to follow.
Joy’s ability to tell a beautiful love story and deal with the time-shifting elements are the key strengths of the production. The place where “Reminiscence” falls apart is the overall plotline of who is behind the mystery of Mae’s disappearance. It is a standard finale that looks even weaker compared to the other stronger parts of the film.
Although the idea of this future world where rising waters are taking over the land allows for some stunning set designs, this tragic glimpse at what global warming can do doesn’t add to the story. It basically only establishes this is a time where there are those who have everything and those who don’t. That’s a very timeless theme so it never gives the film an added boost.
The story has problems but what will be etched in your memory after seeing “Reminiscence” is the story of a man who falls so deeply in love that the memory of that relationship drives him to find a way to make new memories even if that means finding them through old ones.
“Reminiscence” has opened in theaters and will be available on the streaming service of HBO Max for 31 days.
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandi Newton, Cliff Curtis, Daniel Wu, Marina de Tavira.
Director: Lisa Joy
Rated: PG-13 for strong violence, sexual content, language, drug use
Running time: 118 minutes.