"Remember" Movie Review
Posted by Jason McIntire | Oct 05, 2013
"No father shall know his child; no child shall know his father." This quote from Plato is the basis for Remember, a Christian sci-fi film from the Canadian father/son duo of Greg and Dallas Lammiman. In a dystopian society of 2050, children are confiscated at birth to be raised by the state, while the tyrannized citizenry is kept mellow with memory-suppressing drugs. Regime enforcer Captain Carl Onoway is the reluctant hero, taking MemRelieve during the week to conceal his own renegade good deeds on the weekends. Buttressed by strong star performances and a vast number of small but important special effects, Remember belies its almost unthinkable $4,000 budget.
A really clean family movie
On a cleanliness scale of one to ten, where ten is a pep talk by Tim Tebow, Remember would get about a nine. With the exception of a euphemism or two, there is no questionable language. Most of the ladies wear futuristic garments that are sack-like and totally modest. (The men get matching white life jackets in order to keep pace.) Rachel Peacock, who shines as Carl's wife Wendy, is the only actress seen in ordinary outfits - and her smocks and skirts are utterly unimpeachable by any standard.
There are guns in Remember, but as weird as this sounds, there aren't any bullets. Instead the firearms emit some sort of undefined projectile or force field that can be set to kill or just stun. Naturally, when the good guys are using them (and the good girls; even Rachel gets one) they're set to stun only, and the victims are like new again after the fight. It still feels like battle, but don't be surprised if some more cynical audience members burst out laughing during climactic moments.
There is some thudding hand-to-hand combat in Remember, but once again, the point gets across without undue depiction of violence. The only physical-contact weapons are stubby electric stun clubs, which are really more comical than menacing.
The moral of the story
If you're looking for a strong evangelistic flick to show your unsaved neighbors, keep looking. (Actually I'll save you some time: the answer is Flywheel.) While Remember is pretty obviously a Christian movie, God is not mentioned by name. The Bible makes an appearance (they euphemistically call it "the book") but only three verses get airplay, and two of those are from the Old Testament. And just so you know, the apparition near the beginning isn't an apparition at all, and certainly isn't anyone you might be thinking it is.
The movie's message is about standing against the tide of the world, holding your family together no matter the cost. It's meant to inspire parents to fulfill their God-given role of, well, parenting. In communicating this message the film is quite effective - but in my opinion, the message itself stands incomplete. No degree of parental determination, however manly, can save your family from the corruption of the world. That's the job of the Holy Spirit working through you, and directly in the hearts of your children. But in a relatively ambiguous film that doesn't mention God or Jesus, you can't exactly expect the Holy Spirit to receive coverage either. I'm not saying that's wrong, but I think it's important for parents to realize that Remember is just a "family" movie - not a guide to living your life for Christ.
The wonder of a small budget and a big computer
At one point in Remember, we see Captain Onoway locked in a "prison cell." Now objectively speaking, this room doesn't look much like what it's supposed to be. Notably, it has a back door, which appears to bolt from the inside. Yet we accept that it is, in fact, a prison cell - and a high-tech one at that. Why? Because the main door lock is seamlessly overlaid with an electronic interface that really appears to exist and work. This is just one example of how the producers have created an expensive-looking virtual world within an extremely inexpensive real one. Don't expect simulated avalanches or buildings falling down in Remember. The computer generated images are essentially used to build the sets - and collectively, they make a masterpiece.
Don't forget your sunglasses
From beginning to end, Remember is shot in bluish-white light, and it's cold enough to cause retina-frostbite. Worse, the director of photography has a penchant for shooting straight into glarey windows, making his subjects into silhouettes and his viewers into bleary-eyed squints. Fortunately, modern monitors come with excellent brightness controls. After nearly going snow-blind in the first ten minutes, we turned our LCD backlight down to 50%. The movie was still as cold as ice, but the light levels became acceptable.
Now, I completely get what the producers were trying to do with the lighting. A cold blue atmosphere looks impersonal, sterile, futuristic, and threatening - everything the dystopian world of Remember is supposed to be. However, any particular lighting effect gets jading after awhile. Even the familiar golden glow of sports epics gets to looking cheesy after a continuous hour or so. With Remember I kept expecting the color to thaw toward the end, like Narnia after the Hundred Years Of Winter. Unfortunately, it doesn't. The biggest splotch of bright color you'll see in this film is a red lid on a container of cinnamon buns - which stands out like a bright buoy on an ocean of unremitting monochrome.
Doesn't everybody talk to Jell-O?
Even in science fiction, bizarre, physics-defying story elements require a certain amount of explanation up-front. Otherwise, they become distracting. Remember has several such integral parts, and none are explained before quite a bit of head-scratching has been done. One of these elements has to do with a mystifying blue gel which at first seems insignificant, then puzzling, then just weird. When one of the characters finally explains how the goop is supposed to work, he starts out by telling Captain Onoway, "You've probably figured this out by now...." His explanation makes sense in a science-fiction sort of way, but that preface seems to indicate that the writers thought the audience would have already figured it out.
In my view, this serves to illustrate a problem faced by every writer: you can't get outside your own head. After a while of working the same story over and over, everything looks obvious, and you can't see it any other way. Of course the blue gel does such-and-such. Everybody can see that. Right?
The final note tells the story
For the first forty-five minutes of Remember, my pen was scratching away. "Simplistic sets," I noted. "Shortage of cast. Shortage of scenes. At times, the writers seem to have taken MemRelieve - or else they think we have...."
The above observations are not altogether inaccurate, particularly when applied to the film's somewhat weak first half. While the stars absolutely kill it in every scene, some of the supporting jobs fall short of the mark. The sets - the real ones, that is - are mostly empty white rooms with perhaps two pieces of furniture. The outdoor scenes are all the same: snowscapes, with the snow crunching incessantly in the microphone. And in the first part of the movie, several scenes are repeated multiple times almost verbatim.
Yet there's one last note which I think is more important than all the rest. After about an hour, I stopped taking notes. You see, I had a movie to watch - one that turned out to be quite engaging overall despite a small budget and a few rough spots. Remember.
For purposes of this review, our family was provided with a free digital download of "Remember." No representations or guarantees were made about the content of the review.