A solitary man living in a dystopian near-future helps people recover lost memories and ends up uncovering a violent conspiracy in Reminiscence, a sci-fi thriller that feels like a cross between classic film noir and ambitiously heady fare like Memento and Inception. That’s no surprise, as it’s the feature film directorial debut of Lisa Joy, co-creator (with husband Jonathan Nolan) of HBO’s critically acclaimed series Westworld.
Per the official premise:
Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed when he takes on a new client, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). A simple matter of lost and found becomes a dangerous obsession. As Bannister fights to find the truth about Mae’s disappearance, he uncovers a violent conspiracy and must ultimately answer the question: how far would you go to hold on to the ones you love?
During a virtual event on Wednesday, Joy said she was inspired to make Reminiscence after finding an old photograph among her grandfather’s belongings. The picture was of an unknown woman her grandfather had never mentioned to anyone in the family. “It made me start to think about memory and our lives in general,” she said. “And the moments that maybe pass by, and maybe disappear—they don’t stay with us, those connections necessarily—but that meant something, that changed us and touched us. And how nice it would be able to go back to these memories fully for a moment, to live that life and feel the way you felt when you experienced them.”
Apparently, Jackman was Joy’s first choice for the lead role; he has certainly shown he’s capable of gritty drama, action, and conveying tormented love. Ferguson (Mission: Impossible 5 and 6) seems like a perfect choice for the film’s femme fatale, Mae. She was mesmerizing as Rose the Hat in 2019’s Doctor Sleep, equal parts seductive and sinister, and she brings the same qualities to this trailer. Emmy-award winner Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible II), who plays Maeve, the cynical madam on Westworld, is the sensible, tough-as-nails Watts, Nick’s business partner in the memory recovery business. And Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands) plays crime kingpin Saint Joe, who has a mysterious connection to Mae.
The trailer opens with Jackman’s voiceover lulling a client into reliving a memory. (“You’re going on a journey. A journey through memory. All you have to do is follow my voice.”) This is a world where rising sea levels due to climate change have flooded the city of Miami, and ongoing wars have traumatized vast swaths of the population. So “nostalgia became a way of life. There wasn’t a lot to look forward to. So people began looking back. Nothing is more addictive than the past.” The memory-recovery tech is more than just standard hypnosis; a client’s memories play out in visible holographic form, and the clients essentially relive their past experiences, complete with sensory details (touch, smell, taste, sound, and sight).
Then Mae walks in right before closing time, and Nick can’t resist making time for one more job. It’s a classic Chandler-esque noir setup. Naturally, Nick embarks on a passionate affair with Mae, and when she suddenly disappears, that passion turns into an obsession with finding her—even if it means uncovering secrets best left buried. Watts advises him that Mae has moved on and he should, too; after all, how much did he really know about Mae?
“Don’t go down this path,” she pleads at one point. “Stay here. In this life.” But you know Nick Bannister is gonna do what he’s gotta do, even if it pits him against Saint Joe and his minions.
Reminiscence hits theaters on August 20 and will also stream on HBO Max for one month.
Listing image by Warner Bros.