Remember – LFF Review

Remember

Zev (Christopher Plummer) wakes up in his nursing home to be told that his wife has died the week before. Every time Zev wakes up he has to be reminded of this and every other detail about where he is and why he is there. To complicate matters Zev’s routine is disrupted when his fellow resident Max (Martin Landau) gives him a letter which details a promise Zev has made; to hunt down and kill the Nazi who killed their families at Auschwitz decades ago.

Zev packs his wash bag, flees the nursing home, buys a gun and sets off on the trail on an elderly Nazi hiding somewhere in America. This revenge tail is made more difficult by Zev’s dementia which often leaves him vulnerable and relying on the letter in his pocket to tell him what he needs to do next and remind him of who he is. This is Taken meets Memento via Last of the Summer Wine.

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I have read mixed reviews of Remember but I fall squarely in the camp of those that loved it. Zev’s mental state brings a lot of sadness to what could have been a traditional thriller; his repeated discovery that his wife is dead is heartbreaking every time. As a thriller Remember manages to be satisfyingly tense as Zev put himself in risky situations made all the riskier for his lack of cognition. Rounding off the emotional trifecta is the┬álarge amount of humour injected into the film. Humour that had the audience laughing up until Dean Norris appeared on-screen. I will say no more.

Remember is not perfect. The ending in particular may undermine your enjoyment but on the whole I think this is a smart film from writer Benjamin August. A film that takes genre conventions and gives them a delightful little turn, if not a full twist. As a showcase for the still sharp and on form Christopher Plummer Remember exceeds the most.

Funny, thrilling, and sad Remember gets my vote. But I understand if you disagree.

Remember screen again at the festival on the 18th October and tickets can be bought online.

Men, Women & Children – LFF Review

Men, Women & Children

Jason Reitman’s directorial career was going so well. His first four films from Thank You for Smoking to Young Adult were each remarkable in their own way and it seemed that he could not put a foot wrong. And then he did. Earlier this year saw the release of Labor Day; an out of character romantic drama that showed Reitman trying something a little different and failing in the process. This year he returned to the London Film Festival with a new contemporary family drama Men, Women & Children. The question this film had to answer was, has Jason Reitman got his groove back?

In Men, Women & Children men, women, and children (I’m for the Oxford comma) find their personal relationships sabotaged by an over reliance on technology. Jennifer Garner* is a neurotic mother who monitors her daughter’s every move online, even going so far as to delete messages before they reach her. Her daughter Kaitlyn Dever feels oppressed and uses a secret Tumblr account as her only outlet while starting a sweet offline romance with Ansel Elgort. Ansel has abandoned the school football team in favour of playing online computer games after his mother abandoned him and his dad, Dean Norris, and became more a Facebook friend than a parent. When not worrying about his son Dean is flirting with Judy Greer who manages a questionable modelling website for her celebrity-in-waiting daughter, Olivia Crocicchia. Olivia meanwhile is sexting high school jock Travis Tope who is struggling to find real sex appealing having become addicted to a particular strand of porn. Travis’ parents Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt are failing to connect and so are contemplating exploring online escorts and extramarital affair sites respectively. If that weren’t nearly enough we also have Elena Kampouris who visits thinspiration websites and suffers from anorexia and low self-esteem but she doesn’t fit as neatly into the chain of relationships as everyone else.

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As you can tell from the above there is a lot going on in Men, Women & Children and every storyline involves someone’s life being worse off thanks to the internet. An ensemble drama can work but only when dealt with carefully. In this case the fact that a small group of interlinked individuals are all experiencing some form of cyber woe makes the whole exercise feel inauthentic and implausible. Now might well be the prime time for a film exploring the internet’s effects on human relationships but this heavy-handed attempt at highlighting the possible dangers online is not that film. Jason Reitman wants you to reflect on how you are damaging your own relationships and he will beat you round the head with an iPad until you do. Few films are this preachy and condescending which, having now sat through this public service announcement of a film, is a great relief.

There are moments of charm and humour but they are lost in amongst the endless scenes of characters making bad choices because their modems made them do it. Men, Women & Children is not about the real world or real people. It is Reefer Madness for the internet age and is every bit as overblown and undercooked. In an attempt to add levity to proceedings Reitman has added narration courtesy of Emma Thompson in the hopes that her accent describing sex acts will be enough to soften the rough edges of this melodramatic catastrophe. Sadly even Thompson’s authoritative voice can’t distract from the mess Reitman has made.

No character is given enough screen time to become fully rounded and nearly everyone involved at some point does something so utterly stupid and unrelatable that the audience is left floundering looking for someone to relate to. The minute you think you have found your cypher to guide you through Men, Women & Children they will do something unforgivable or seemingly without motive. The film is unlikely to stop anyone from going online but may well turn people away from going to the cinema again.

Men, Women & Children is misogynist, paranoid, and pretentious. Jason Reitman can do so much better.

*There are too many characters for me to have remembered any names.

Men, Women & Children has a UK release date of 28th November 2014.

BFI LFF 2014