Atom Egoyan sealed his reputation as a filmmaker of note in the 90s, with the brilliant, strange and moving The Sweet Hereafter. Since then, however, the Canadian director has struggled to return to form: Devil’s Knot transformed a riveting, real-life tale of murder and corruption in small-town America into something less than gripping. Likewise, his latest offering – a cross-country road trip of Holocaust vengeance – has a fascinating and worthy premise but ultimately misfires.
Christopher Plummer is Zev Guttman. A dementia-stricken 90-something-year-old, he’s living out his final days in a nursing home. When his wife dies, he’s reminded by his friend and fellow resident, Max (Martin Landau) of the plan he promised to honour after her death: to avenge the murder of their families in the concentration camps at Auschwitz.
A protagonist with an ailing memory is an intriguing plot device and one that is used here to ramp up the tension: as Zev makes his way from state to state (armed with a bag of pills, an envelope full of cash, detailed instructions from Max, and a trembling and loaded Glock), hunting down the elusive Rudy Kurlander, the reason for his journey is always threatening to slip just out of reach. It is, however, a conceit that has been delivered to more masterful effect before – for example, in Christopher Nolan’s psychological thriller,Memento.
The questions that Remember poses about guilt, responsibility and the effects of trauma, are interesting ones and are ripe for exploration. Unfortunately, first-time screenwriter Benjamin August’s script fails to deliver a convincing frame on which to hang these. At times, Zev’s encounters feel flat and superficial; others – such as his meeting with Nazi super fan, John Kurlander (Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris), and the final twist in the tale, although engrossing, feel a little contrived.
It is the brilliant Plummer who elevates the material and delivers the film’s genuinely moving moments. Unlike the overwrought score, Plummer’s performance is poignant but understated, conveying the fear and confusion of a man faced with his own diminishing faculties, and the quiet determination of someone who believes he is meting out moral revenge for the wrongs of the past.
Remember is released nationwide on 21st February 2016.
Watch the trailer for Remember here: