A Dark, Steamy Movie and a New Isaac Asimov Series Splash Down

Rebecca Ferguson and Hugh Jackman in REMINISCENSE


The new Apple TV+ series, FOUNDATION, based on Isaac Asimov’s landmark sci-fi novel series, is blowing my mind. Although I’m still trying to decide whether I like the gender switching and romantic frisson touches that weren’t in the original work.

It’s not fair to deliver final judgement, because I’m still on episode 2, but some of the characters feel a little wooden. An outstanding aspect of the books, and now the series, is on the highly imaginative universe building that revolves around a man who’s genius mathematical skills allow him to predict the future. I’ll keep watching.

My thoughts keep wandering back to another show I saw recently: REMINISCENSE. It’s a movie that focuses on smaller human stories, set against visions of the future. My own dystopian novel, THE JUICE, falls into that category, so there’s no wonder why I like REMINISCENSE so much.

Lisa Joy, a major force behind the series WESTWORLD, created REMINISCENSE with a huge splash of film noir. Kind of reminds me of BLADE RUNNER. There’s even a little CASABLANCA in there too. It’s about a cool, dark-edged main character whose heart has been corroded by a woman that he can’t forget. So he goes on an obsessive quest to find her.

The story sinks us into a world in which coastal cities like New Orleans and Miami are in large part under water. The scenery isn’t scary, but rather romantic and haunted. Mobsters, nightclubs, police squads are part of the natural habitat. And among them is a detective named Nick Bannister, played by Hugh Jackman, who owns a technology system that allows people to relive moments from their past in vivid detail.

With the help of his sidekick, Watts (Thandwie Newton) he jabs them with a drug, invites them into a certain bath and positions a headpiece on them. Moments from the past appear on a circular stage, holographs that Jackman and Newton can see as well as their clients. Most of the customers are seeking out the memories because they have no good future to look forward to, and they just want to see relive periods of time when they were content.

As Jackman’s character tells us, “The past doesn’t haunt us. Wouldn’t even recognize us. If there are ghosts to be found, it’s us who haunt the past.”

A mystery quickly arises for Jackman when that most luscious of all film noir tropes, a femme fatale, walks in the door for a memory session in hopes of finding some lost keys. The woman, Mae (played by Rebecca Ferguson), is a nightclub chanteuse who quickly captures his heart and then vanishes.

Jackman goes down a twisting spiral, using his own memory-inducing bath to pull up old scenes his time together with Mae, and forcing other people who knew her into memory sessions in hopes of figuring out what happened to her. He needs to find her because he loves her and (eventually) hates her. He is obsessed with the need to know if she’s stolen something from him, and why she would do so.

Joy – who wrote, directed and produced the movie – has explained that the story was inspired by her own longing to keep memories close following the death of her grandfather and birth of her daughter.

In an interview with “Nerdist,” she spoke of her young one: “You know that baby smell they have when they’re babies? And it’s so intoxicating, and it just does something primal to your heart? I can’t remember the smell now. I just remember how much I loved it, you know?”

Joy continues, “I knew details like that I don’t get to hold onto, and it pained me. But it also made me, despite how exhausted I was when I was nursing her at night, it made me pay attention. It made me, with all the brain cells I had available, try to lock in and appreciate those moments for what they were.”

I can appreciate that on such a primal level. And I think that tapping into those reserves of emotion in people is what a lot of good fiction does.

More than that, she unraveled a mystery that speaks to another universal theme: falling in love with someone who turns out to be untrustworthy, someone you deeply want to understand no matter how angry she or he makes you, no matter how painful the journey to discovery might be. If you dare go on that journey at all.

REMINISCENSE has been on HBOMax over the last month, and now Warner Bros. is distributing it solely in theaters. But this film will be back to TV before long, I predict. If you like your dystopian fiction mixed with romance, head out to a theater (if you feel safe) or bookmark it in your mind for future viewing.

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