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Film / Reminiscence

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"The past doesn’t haunt us. Wouldn’t even recognize us. If there are ghosts to be found, it’s us who haunt the past."
"You’re going on a journey. A journey through memory. Your destination? A place and time you've been before. To reach it... all you have to do is follow my voice."
Nick Bannister

Reminiscence is a 2021 Neo-noir Dystopian Science Fiction Romantic Thriller directed by Lisa Joy (Westworld). It stars Hugh Jackman, Thandiwe Newton, Rebecca Ferguson, Daniel Wu, Natalie Martinez and Cliff Curtis.

In a dystopian future where rising waters leave people with little true hope for the future, Nick Bannister (Jackman) and his colleague Emily "Watts" Sanders (Newton) operate a business allowing people to relive specific memories. Nick eventually falls in love with Mae (Ferguson), a client who initially just visited to find her lost keys, but after she vanishes from his life without explanation, Nick becomes consumed by his obsession as he relives his lost memories of her until he finds clues to her true fate.

Previews: Trailer.

Reminiscence contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The movie is set in the near future where global warming has caused massive flooding and society comes out during the night to avoid the high temperatures during the day.
  • Actor Allusion: Rebecca Ferguson singing to Hugh Jackman.
  • Action Girl: Watts is a stone-cold badass. After Nick stupidly gets in over his head doggedly pursuing Mae, Watts comes after him and literally drops an entire bar full of drug smugglers by her damn self.
  • The Alcoholic: Watts. She has her own Tragic Backstory to explain it, and to be honest, it's pretty understandable.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1, Most of the earth is massively flooded due to a global disaster, society is still intact but is forced to live by night due to the extreme temperatures in the day, could slide into Class 2 or 3b.
  • Batman Gambit: Mae dropping one of her jade earrings on the street outside Bannister's office, knowing he would come looking for her despite leaving him behind without a word. All this was to have him save the child of Elsa Carine, a client of his from earlier in the movie, who we find out later was having an affair with a big-shot land baron, Walter Sylvan. To wit: Mae showed up at Bannister's office for the final time and was knocking on the door when she was caught up to by Boothe, a Dirty Cop who used to work with Saint Joe, a drug lord in New Orleans. She agreed to go quietly but surreptitiously dropped one of her trademark jade earrings on the street outside the office, knowing he would find it and renew his obsession with her. In an unrelated case, the prosecutor calls him and his partner, Watts, to get the memories of a gangster who worked with Saint Joe. In the suspect's memories, Bannister saw Mae, prompting him to follow her trail to New Orleans, and from there to catch up with Boothe, leading him to find the client's child, Freddie. What makes this border on Gambit Roulette is the dependence on his obsession with her to pursue every lead he can find related to her, no matter how tenuous. She was counting on him finding out from Watts that the vault had been left unsupervised and that she stole Elsa Carine's memory chip, finding out that the man she had the affair with was Walter Sylvan, and following that thread to his legitimate son, who initiated this entire conspiracy.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Watts. She puts up with Nick's shit because they're old friends and partners, but it's definitely frustrating once Mae enters the picture.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Mae ultimately deliberately took an overdose of drugs and jumped off a building rather than let herself be questioned.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nick is able to find out what happened to Mae only after she is dead, and subjects her killer to such a brutal fate that his sentence would normally be "worse than murder". However, for his role in exposing a conspiracy, he is able to cut a plea deal where his "sentence" is to be allowed to relive his memories of his relationship with Mae for the rest of his natural life.
  • Black Best Friend: Watts appears to be Nick's Only Friend.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: A subversion—Nick runs Watts out of his life after her heartfelt romantic confession, knowing he's about to either get himself killed or get them both killed hunting for Mae. He does offer to get her a new, better gig and later we see her working at a respectable technology company but it's mostly to get her away from him and his suicide mission.
  • The Caper: Forms the backstory of the events in the movie and is the reason Mae came into the office in the first place. Bannister's memory vault was the target from the beginning and she arranged everything with Boothe, from asking around about his romantic and musical preferences, to the "misplacement" of the keys that would lead her to his office.
  • Character Narrator: Nick. It fits, given that the film is an attempt to be a Neo-noir story.
  • The Chanteuse: Mae is a sultry lounge singer in a Noir film, and is quickly revealed to be something of a Femme Fatale.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The woman who repeatedly comes in over and over again to relive her romance with an older man turns out to be the woman Mae betrayed Nick to give to her blackmailer.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Invoked; at one point Nick is shown assisting the police in an interrogation using his technology, and when the suspect has a violent reaction to a certain question Nick explains that this confirms that the subject genuinely doesn't know the answer to that question. Later on, when Nick interrogates a man he believes murdered Mae, this man displays a similar reaction to the previous incident, confirming for Nick that this man didn't kill Mae.
  • Cyberpunk: The movie takes place in a near-future dystopia where the rich have escaped into fortified islands surrounded by dams and the poor have been left to drown in flooded regions along the coast. Technology is used as an escape from a hopeless future and the same corruption as well as greed that dominated humanity before continues to do so.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: It is eventually revealed that Mae once worked for a drug dealer and was addicted to the product she helped to sell.
  • Dystopia: The setting the characters live in is a Flooded Future World that was ravished by war, climate change and a corrupt government.
  • Exploding Fish Tanks: Watts saves Nick as he's being drowned by shooting the tank his captors are dunking his head on, causing it to explode in slow-motion.
  • Eye Scream: Nick shoves a needle into a thug's eyes, seemingly killing him. The camera also cuts away before impact.
  • Fantastic Noir: The film is a Noir sci-fi story that takes place in a flooded dystopian Miami and revolves around a machine that can probe people's memories.
  • Fate Worse than Death: After Nick finds the man responsible for Mae's death, he traps her killer in the man's worst memory, specifically when the man was nearly burnt to death.
  • Femme Fatale: Mae walks into Nick's life exactly how she appears—a shady woman looking to seduce him. Somehow, though, he doesn't pick up on it until it's far too late.
  • Flooded Future World: The film takes place 20 Minutes into the Future, where an environmental disaster has changed the Earth enough to turn most of Miami into a flooded city, the non-wealthy live in a soggy wasteland where many of the streets are filled with water, and boats are the most common form of transportation.
  • Great Offscreen War: Nick and Watts are veterans of an unspecified border war that happened before the film's events. We're never given many details, but it's implied that it's at least partially related to the environmental disaster.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Mae is quite the head-turner, when she first comes into Nick's workplace he seems immediately struck by her beauty.
  • In Love with the Mark: Mae is revealed to be a Femme Fatale who come to Nick's life with the intention to seduce and con him, but ended up falling for him for real.
  • Jealous Romantic Witness: Watts. A conversation with Mae reveals she's been in love with Nick for years, but due to being friends and partners (and possibly due to her alcohol abuse), she never said anything. However, it's clear Mae is shady and Watts makes it clear she has no regard for her, but Mae also picks up on the jealousy Watts exudes whenever she's around.
  • Just Before the End: The world is gradually flooding because of rising sea levels and the last coastal cities left will likely be completely submerged within a couple generations.
  • Just Friends: Nick and Watts. Unfortunate for Watts, who is revealed to be in love with Nick secretly.
  • Lady in Red: Mae wears a sultry crimson-red gown for her job as a lounge singer, and it's what she's wearing when she meets Nick for the first time.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The memory machine used here allows people to relive past experiences, but people can theoretically become trapped in the machine if they choose. This is Nick's ultimate fate at the end of the movie but unlike most examples, he's okay with it.
  • Loving a Shadow: Nick is given direct evidence that Mae was a lying, stealing, drug addict and hooker, but continues to just remember their love affair and is convinced she's a good person who genuinely loved him. Whether she loved him or not, he outright won't accept her filthy past.
  • Memory Jar: The chips containing the clients' memories.
  • Mercy Kill: Watts hits Saint Joe in the lung with a bullet, dooming him to a slow and painful death by drowning in his own blood. She then shoots him in the head to make his death quick and painless.
  • Mind Probe: The memory machine can be used as one by a specialist like Nick, probing people's memories to find out secrets. He used to work as an interrogator back in the military and seems to still do some work in this capacity for the local law enforcement.
  • Oblivious to Love: Nick doesn't figure out Watts is in love with him until he accesses a memory where Mae confronts Watts about it. Subverted in that he doesn't notice and is more focused on the fact that she was drunk when she should have been watching the memory vault.
  • Obviously Evil: A subversion. Mae is so incredibly obviously shifty that Watts picks up on it immediately upon seeing her walk in. Nick, however, for some reason, is oblivious, but it's implied he's Distracted by the Sexy and can't tell everything she does is obviously a trap of some sort.
  • One Head Taller: Nick practically towers over Watts.
  • One-Man Army: One woman army—Watts takes out the entire bar full of bad guys in order to save Nick.
  • Opening Narration: The world is given some narration to explain how a few things work, but not to the point of Exposition Dump territory.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Mae's killer. Apparently, the incident where he acquired those scars was the most traumatic event in his life, which is why Nick uses it to torture him in revenge for killing Mae.
  • Prefers the Illusion:
    • Nick's entire business revolves around people wanting the relive a better time, getting into his memory machine that lets them relive a time when the world was better.
    • In the end, Nick himself rejects everything he learned about Mae and chooses to live out the rest of his life in the positive memories he shared with her in the tank. Gee, that's healthy... although considering the alternative was a life sentence its kind of understandable.
    • Also true for the old woman whose son tried to cover up the affair and have the mistress and her son killed to be sure the father wouldn't cut them in to the inheritance once the father died. The woman apparently hires men who look vaguely like her husband used to and has them run the same lines from a favorite memory of hers over and over again.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Nick's narration is mostly in this style.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: The memory tanks in Nick's office are filled with water, so most of his clients to change into some bathing suits to climb into it. But when Mae first comes in to have her memory searched, she's in a hurry so she simply strips completely naked right in front of a startled Nick (though we see only her bare back and shoulders) and climbs into the tank in the nude. Later, when Nick and Watts are watching her memories, Nick turns away when Mae starts to change clothes and Watts rolls her eyes and snarks that she likely wouldn't care if he watched. It's later revealed she was deliberately trying to seduce him, meaning she was invoking this so not to get him suspicious to her intentions.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Watts is implied to still be suffering from some trauma she gained from her past in the military. She mostly deals with it by drinking.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Strange Days that shares many themes, plot ideas, and the same basic technology. Strange Days has the protagonist's unhealthy obsession with an idealized past relationship shown to be a Fatal Flaw that he ultimately discards. Reminiscence has the protagonist embrace his nostalgia to the point of self-destruction.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: A variation; Mae is able to say goodbye to Nick by addressing her would-be killer as though he is Nick, knowing that Nick will follow the clues to capture this man and access the man's memory to learn what happened to her.
  • Toplessness from the Back: The film uses this camera shot whenever Mae is nude, be it stripping down to climb the water tank, changing out of her clothes or laying on her stomach next to Nick after they had sex.
  • Water Torture: Nick is subjected to this by the drug lord whom he thinks has info on Mae, dunking his head into a water tank filled with eels. Watts rescues him by shooting the water tanks while the thugs are trying to drown him.

Alternative Title(s): Reminiscence 2021