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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Loving a Shadow: Good God, Nick. A thousand times Nick. He 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.
- 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.
- 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: In the end, Nick 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- The Vamp: 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.