A labyrinth of memory, introspection, delusion, and hallucination, Remainder is a consuming tale where escalating madness ultimately makes sense. Basing his movie on Tom McCarthy’s debut novel, Omer Fast brings back this bleak, haunting story with a film that undoubtedly fosters suspense, but seems to capture attention more by cinematic manoeuvres than by elucidating the intricacies of the plot.
The opening is comprised of a hurried gallop of unexplained events: a young man (Tom Sturridge) is struck on the head by a falling object and completely loses his memory. What initially seems to be a freak accident takes on a different tone as he is offered money never to speak of the incident again; at the same time, the unnamed protagonist starts experiencing uncontrollable tics and unnerving, repetitive hallucinations. Trying to decipher these episodes, he begins recreating these apparitions like a film director would play out his scenes, while the mental obsession slowly turns to reality.
Elaborate and supernatural, Remainder‘s narrative is patchy, with a number of details fading around the edges (perhaps it keeps its mystery so dense, it deliberately excludes the viewer from its logic). Characters and events are frequently hazy, keeping a lot of the film in its initial obscurity – even after the ending unfolds and reveals the plot. In other words, while the core story gradually discloses itself – opting for a creeping understanding of the “truth” instead of a sudden “Aha!” moment – on the other hand other events remain uncharted, unexplained, and somewhat out-of-the-blue.
Tom Sturridge is consistently icy and grim in the role of this cryptic (and, frankly, unhinged) orchestrator of his own visions – an expressionistic choice, probably, that seems to slightly overdo its own intentions. As the film makes his character less and less likeable, Sturridge evolves from a victim into the inscrutable architect of a dark plan.
In a contemporary London dressed in homage to noir film, low saturated colours and dim lights encircle the protagonist’s desperation, then his curiosity, and finally his obsession, in a production of remarkable visual skill.
At a crossroads between Memento and La Jetée, Remainder takes the definition of psychological thriller to an even more literal level of “thriller within the psyche” of its main character. Recalling also David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and its deliberate confusion of timelines and cause-effect relations, the picture bathes in its own schemes of amnesia and repetition, twisting into a deranged maze that leaves behind a few narrative loopholes, but also enough thrill to be pleasingly engaging.
Remainder is released in UK cinemas on 24th June 2016.
Watch the trailer for Remainder here: