J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sundance ’17: Rememory

Without our memories, we wouldn’t have our guilt, jealousy, and resentments—all the stuff that makes us human. It would seem the messy combination above also contributed to the death of noted memory specialist Dr. Gordon Dunn. Unfortunately, Dunn’s new game-changing invention is also missing, prompting the mysterious Sam Bloom to conduct his own investigation in Mark Palansky’s Rememory (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

It is not clear whether Bloom really was a friend of Dunn’s or if he simply hoping the Macguffin device would help him process his emotional issues. Clearly, Bloom blames himself for the death of his rock-star brother, because he was behind the wheel at the time of the fatal accident. This looks like a perfect case for Dunn’s treatment. His invention records and plays back memory with flawless accuracy, stripping away the distortions we layer on over the years. According to Dunn, viewing painful memories in this fashion is cathartic, but at least one disgruntled patient vehemently begs to differ. As a further complication, Dunn had begun tweaking his device after documenting a number of unfortunate side effects.

Of course, the agitated Todd is seen furtively leaving Dunn’s office on the fateful night in question. So is his spurned lover Wendy, who is also rather disappointed Dunn used a number of her emotionally charged memories in his Steve Jobs-style product launch, without prior permission. Tracking down the memory VCR would certainly help Bloom crack the case, but it might not necessarily cure what ails him.

It is hard to explain why, but Rememory does not feel like a Sundance film. It is built around an intriguing premise, but Palansky never delves too deeply into issues of memory and identity. Nevertheless, the noir style is quite appealing. Game of Thrones fans will also be happy to hear Peter Dinklage is terrific as Bloom. It is a moody but understated turn that proves he can carry a film. His scenes with Julia Ormond playing Dunn’s slightly estranged widow are especially rich and laden with complicated chemistry. The late Anton Yelchin (who had two films at Sundance this year) is also twitchy and jangly, like a raw nerve ending, as poor desperate Todd. Plus, Martin Donovan is perfectly cast as the smooth-talking Dunn, but unfortunately there is no opportunity for a proper scene with him and Dinklage together.

Rememory is a reasonably entertaining film, but it is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. Regardless, it is a pleasure to watch pros like Dinklage and Ormond do their thing. Sadly, it also takes on additional irony as one of Yelchin’s final films that happens to be all about memory and grief. Recommended overall for fans of social-psychological science fiction, Rememory screens again tomorrow (1/28) at Sundance Mountain Resort and Sunday (1/29) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance.

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