Remember (2016, Canada/Germany, d. Atom Egoyan, 94 Minutes)
By Jesse Stringer
Remember follows the character of Zev Guttman, an elderly man suffering from dementia who also happens to be an Auschwitz survivor. While in a retirement home, he meets a fellow survivor, Max, who knew him at the camp. He informs Zev that the man who murdered their families in the Holocaust had fled to America after the war and is still living somewhere in the country. After the death of his wife, and with the help of his friend and a handwritten letter, Zev sets out to murder the Nazi responsible for his family’s death. This plot sounds like it has the potential to make for a good thriller, maybe even a great one. Unfortunately, Remember is a bland, poorly made mess that is filled with plot holes and logical inconsistencies throughout. This should’ve been a dark and emotional tale of revenge but it frankly plays more like a made for TV movie from the early 2000’s.
It’s hard to believe that great actors, Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, signed on to be in this film but oddly enough they did. The filmmakers behind this one should be thanking their lucky stars they did because they are really the only things that make this film watchable. Plummer has been proving for decades his abilities as an actor in films like The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind, and Beginners for which he won an Academy Award. It is safe to say Plummer is the best part about this film. He delivers a nice performance with the material he is working with and he manages to make the audience care about his character. Although a lot of the dialog isn’t the best, he was able to play a man with dementia convincingly enough and even had some nice emotional moments. Landau doesn’t really do much in the film. He really just sits in his wheelchair and shows up occasionally to talk on the phone with Plummer’s character but he doesn’t do a bad job in the film either. The film also features some notable supporting actors like Bruno Ganz, Jürgen Prochnow, and Dean Norris (who basically is continuing to play Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad). Apart from them, the supporting cast is really weak and they all feel like B-rate actors playing against some serious talent which doesn’t work for this film at all.
None of this can be helped by the fact that the director, Atom Egoyan, doesn’t seem to do much to better these performances, or just the material in general. Egoyan has also done some notable work in the past directing films like The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica. In recent years however, he seems to have been taking more mediocre projects like Chloe, The Captive, and now Remember. The direction in this film feels nearly non-existent. The film is shot like a made for TV comedy. It uses really bright colors and lighting. None of it is shot to look moody or dark, which really makes this film’s tone feel inconsistent. Yes, the film has a few dark moments but those moments don’t feel impactful at all because the film feels so light. They just feel abrupt and out of place. Early on in the film, one would never guess that it would go to darker places for there are a lot of corny jokes and cheesy dialog. Egoyan should’ve been able to tell that Remember would’ve benefited from a darker tone and lots of suspense, but none of those aspects are present here, which is a shame. It all feels like a waste.
And the icing on the cake comes in the form of Remember’s screenplay written by first time screenwriter, Benjamin August. Knowing this is the first feature screenplay to be produced by him, it’s easier to cut him some slack, but even still, this is just all around poor writing. Respect should be given to him however for going out and sharing the script with Alzheimer’s experts to ensure the film accurately portrayed the effects dementia have on senior citizens, and honestly that’s about the only thing that feels authentic about this script. The biggest problems this script suffers from are the events that take place in it are absolutely unbelievable. Nearly every device that furthers the plot is completely unrealistic. As the film progresses, things only get more and more ludicrous which becomes absolutely frustrating to the viewer. And as mentioned before, none of the dialog feels natural, the scripts tone is all over the place, and possibly the worst aspect of the script, and the entire film in general, is its ending. It ruins the whole integrity of the movie. August must’ve been trying to go for an ending that would shock an audience versus leaving the audience feeling emotionally drained. It is such a dumb conclusion with almost nothing happening earlier in the film to warrant it.
Remember is a completely un-memorable thriller with virtually no thrills. Christopher Plummer manages to save this one from being absolutely awful, but even he can’t hide the fact that Remember doesn’t work on any level. The film struggles from start to finish to understand what it is trying to be. By the end, it just feels like the filmmakers were going for a Memento type movie but featuring senior citizens. The idea itself had potential to make for an interesting product, but what they created is far from anything intriguing.