Reminiscence begins as an intriguing futuristic noir. Jackman’s Nick is a war veteran who’s living in a dystopian, flooded Miami, where people are desperate to remember happier times (sound familiar?). Nick and his business partner Watts (Thandiwe Newton) can help them do exactly that. Clients enter their facility and are submerged in a machine that projects key memories back to them – and onto the wall, helpfully for us.
Like many of their clients, Nick and Watts are clinging onto the past: largely analogue in a digital age, they’re housed in a big, old-fashioned building, and their contraptions have a steampunk vibe.
Enter Jackman’s The Greatest Showman co star Rebecca Ferguson as Mae, who sashays into the building like a true femme fatale. Nick can’t take his eyes off her – and her memories prove even more alluring. When she disappears, Nick plunders more minds in an effort to find her, and figure out her mysteries.
As you can probably tell, Reminiscence is a complicated film, and the reasons it doesn’t come together are as numerous as its ideas. One key problem is the voiceover: Jackman is saddled with an exposition-heavy narration that would have Ridley Scott baying for a director’s cut. And with little humour to take the edge off, the dialogue is too mannered even for a potboiler.
Only Newton really brings it to life, as excellent here as she was in Westworld. Her character Watts tries to warn Nick that his mission is unwise, if not slightly pathetic. Unfortunately, no-one listens, and the story becomes convoluted and unsatisfying. And while the character of Mae eventually subverts some well-worn clichés, this comes too late. Reminiscence has imagination to spare, but it doesn’t deliver the precious memories it promises.