REMEMORY movie poster | ©2017 Lionsgate

REMEMORY movie poster | ©2017 Lionsgate

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Peter Dinklage, Julia Ormond, Martin Donovan, Henry Ian Cusick, Anton Yelchin, Evelyne Brochu
Writers: Mark Palansky & Mike Vukadinovich
Director: Mark Palansky
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: September 8 (theatrical), August 24 (VOD)

REMEMORY revisits a versatile sci-fi premise: what if memories could be recorded and played back? Films as diverse as TOTAL RECALL and STRANGE DAYS have utilized this idea. In REMEMORY, scientist Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan) has developed a device that does this, which he intends to use for therapy. However, there are some unintended side effects that make some of his test subjects very unhappy. Then there’s the matter of the doctor sharing some of his subjects’ memories with the public, which at least one person views as a violation. When Dunn dies under suspicious circumstances, Sam Bloom (Peter Dinklage) is determined to get to the bottom of it. We know that Sam is partly motivated by his desire to use the device himself in order to decipher elements of a personal tragedy he cannot recall.

Dinklage is one of those actors who could make the proverbial reading of the phone book riveting. He squarely carries REMEMORY, giving Sam wit, curiosity and modulated anguish. He is ably supported by a strong cast, with Julia Ormond a standout as Dunn’s wife. Other actors include Henry Ian Cusick, Evelyne Brochu (of ORPHAN BLACK) and the late Anton Yelchin, who receives a dedication at the film’s end.

However, REMEMORY’s screenplay, by Mark Palansky, who directed, & Mike Vukadinovich, can’t make up its mind how much it really wants to explore its own inventions. The concept of being haunted by memories that won’t go away is raised but not really plumbed. By the end, it seems that characters who are traumatized but don’t use the device seem no more or less anguished than those who do. It’s clear what the Rememory system can do for crime investigation, but the plot keeps wandering away from both the benefits and dangers it can provide to the users’ emotional well-being.

This would be less of an issue if the resolution didn’t hinge on a hard-to-buy revelation; no matter how many logic pretzels we may try to wrestle it into, it seems impossible that certain characters could not know a crucial piece of information. This is so distracting that it derails much of what follows.

Director Palansky has a lot of fun with imagery, including dioramas, hedge mazes and dark roads that are full of portent. He and co-writer Vukadinovich also provide a respectable number of suspects with motives and provide a non-obvious but thematically satisfying solution to the mystery Sam is investigating.

REMEMORY is worth seeing for Dinklage’s work, and it has some promising notions, but the whole winds up being less than the sum of its parts.

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