Solid premises and great ideas are meaningless. Everyone has them and anyone is capable of dreaming up something potentially brilliant. In the end, genius only goes as far as execution, and therein lies the trouble.
This philosophy has potentially never been as visible as it is in Rememory, a film that’s never short on interesting ideas but always lacking in execution.
Rememory feels, somehow, both undercooked and overcooked. It almost seems like a great idea for an episode of Black Mirror, and with a 45-55 minute run time, it might have been a decent offering. Instead, they stretch it out to feature length, delivering a two-hour slog that never quite knows how to fill its extra hour. The end result is like a casserole that’s burnt on the outside and frozen in the middle.
Peter Dinklage stars as Sam Bloom, a man tortured by the death of his brother in a car accident. He hopes to find closure with the Rememory machine, which records memories from a person’s brain and allows them to watch the remembered event objectively, without the cloud of time. When the machine’s inventor, Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan), turns up dead, Sam decides to help piece together the cause of death with the aid of the only working model of the device and the test group Donovan was working with.
Either of Rememory’s two plotlines would be fine on their own, but together they make little sense. Together, they feel like desperate attempts to craft a feature length film when a short would have worked better in either direction. Though Dinklage gives a decent performance—when does he not?—there isn’t much Rememory can do to save itself from itself.
Director Marc Palansky (who co-wrote the script with Mike Vukadinovich) displays a fine, if forgettable, visual sensibility while pulling decent performances from his talented cast. There is nothing, however, that makes this film pop or stand out in any meaningful way. The film isn’t just high concept, it’s high on its concept, and never did it consider that it might not make any sense, or that any sense it did make wasn’t very interesting.
There are some interesting Dickian ideas about memory and self, and Rememory clearly tries to pay homage to some sci-fi heavy hitters. What they end up with however is little more than a pastiche that fails to live up to the greatness it tries to emulate.
Meshing sci-fi with noir isn’t exactly a new idea, but the examples of this technique tend to bring something new to each of its respective tables. The mystery element of Rememory and the questions surrounding the death of Dunn never go anywhere worth visiting. In normal circumstances, Dinklage would make a fantastic noir hero; he’s wholly capable of portraying the tortured hero mystique that’s so entrenched in the genre, and with a better script he could shine as a hard-nosed detective.
This is not that script. Palansky and Vukadinovich go through great pains to try and create a thematic thread that ties both their competing narrative together, and ends up sullying them both. Neither lead to satisfying conclusions, leaving you with a sense of irritated frustration over the pointlessness of it all, as well as the squandering of potential for both its story and its cast.
While there are nuggets of goodness to be found, they are washed away by the sea of awful in which they float. Perhaps Palansky can evolve into a better storyteller over time—Rememory certainly suggests he might be capable—but he’s not there yet. Despite his best intentions and his film’s potential, Rememory is a film best forgotten.
Rememory is now available to own on Blu-ray.