Review: An underwater world obsessed with the past in “Reminiscence”

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“Reminiscence”, starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Natalie Martinez, Thandiwe Newton and Daniel Wu, is a Warner Bros. release, rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. photo AP.

Just as surely as climate change marks the earth and warms the seas, it also floods our films.

The planet’s endangered future has been in the DNA of disaster movies like “The Day After” for years, of course. But lately, the climate has played a bigger role in the proliferation of films as quickly as the melting of the ice caps. This summer saw parched Australian thriller “The Dry” (good movie, by the way) and “The Tomorrow War”, a time-traveling war film that leads to an apocalyptic threat unlocked by thawing permafrost. .

In Lisa Joy’s “Reminiscence,” which debuts in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, the first thing we see is water. The film is set in the near future in a mostly submerged Miami, with canals passing through skyscrapers in some sections. In other areas supported by an ocean wall, there are perpetual puddles. To escape the daytime heat, the city has also turned nocturnal. Or, at least, more.

What would it be like to live in such a world? It is reasonable, if not responsible, to consider it. Joy, who wrote and directed the film, reasonably concluded that we would probably spend a lot of time remembering better days. In “Reminiscence,” she fashioned a dark, futuristic film noir, with all the genre attributes of a hardened narrator, a slender femme fatale, Venetian blinds and, most importantly, a sense of the irrevocable hold of the past on our lives – and that of our planet.

It makes “Reminiscence” both terrifying to watch and a little heartwarming. Who knew that an environmental disaster could be so elegant? The sea can encroach, but at least you can still grab a drink in a seedy nightclub and laconically meditate on the past like the private eyes of days gone by.

In “Reminiscence,” everyone is addicted to nostalgia, which makes the Nick Bannister Memory Loom Machine, in which people lie in a shallow tank and are carried around any time of the year. their past, something like a drug den. “Nothing is more addicting than the past,” says Bannister (Hugh Jackman). With calming direction, he guides clients to treasured memories – a date with a lost love, playing fetch with a beloved dog – which are illuminated on a round stage draped in translucent ropes. (Howard Cummings’ production design is still excellent.)

It is a fallen world, crawling in anarchy, corruption and boredom. Bannister is a veteran of wars that arose when the waters rose. But Jackman, whose lineup ranges from song-and-dance musicals (“The Greatest Showman”) to suburban scandal (“Bad Education”), breathes little of the trauma of anyone who’s been through the war. Jackman is a more reassuring presence. He doesn’t slip into the dark with the weariness of, say, Harrison Ford, or the disillusionment of Humphrey Bogart. But, then again, “Reminiscence” gradually grows more in the direction of melodrama than its dark premise might suggest.

“Reminiscence” begins correctly with an old-fashioned type of dating: an attractive woman searching for her keys. Just after closing time, on a walk Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), in a beautiful red dress. There is an immediate chemistry between her and Bannister, which her colleague, Watts (a very good Thandiwe Newton typically) views with skepticism. She is a singer in a club in a dark, neon-lit neighborhood. Their first night ends with Bannister taking her home, in a grimy daylight.

As you can imagine, “Reminiscence” begins to play with what is real and what is memory, blurring the lines between the two. When Mae goes missing, Bannister begins spending their time together, searching for clues – some of which begin to emerge in other cases, including one involving a New Orleans drug lord (Daniel Wu). To a remarkable degree – with a mysterious and disfigured villain (Cliff Curtis) – Joy’s film is populated with reliable types of the genre. History never has as much of an impact as the setting up of the rising sea.

“Reminiscence” is Joy’s first feature film, but as the creator of the HBO series “Westworld” she has already proven her considerable talent for shaping living, intelligent sci-fi worlds out of contemporary anxieties. “Reminiscence” can get too sentimental and mumble a bit too much about “the past”. Like his characters, he’s drunk on what came before, relying too much on black tropes. But its clever and stimulating concept is not so easy to eliminate. The images of a half-submerged Miami are too strangely realistic. As Bannister roams the shallows and dives deeper into the depths, “Reminiscence” will leave you drenched in unease.

“Reminiscence,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense violence, drug material, sexual content, and strong language. Duration: 116 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.


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