Starring Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Dean Norris, Bruno Ganz, Henry Czerny
If you mention the word “dementia” in combination with Oscar winning actor Christopher Plummer you might assume you know what Remember is about. Your decision to see this film or not might depend on attention span and patience. “Do you remember what you said you would do after Ruth died?”. That’s just one of the mysteries this film presents to the audience. It’s wonderful to see Plummer (Beginners, Danny Collins) in another lead role. Like Ian McKellen, or similar veteran actors, Plummer typically doesn’t play roles about elderly or ailing men, despite his actual age. This is somewhat uncharted territory for Plummer, but Remember is far more than its performance.
“Ruth!”, Zev (Plummer) yells from his assisted living apartment. He is calmed by the nurse and made aware that his wife Ruth has recently passed away. His friend Max (Landau) calms him further, reminding him of the promise he made. Max gives Zev a detailed letter which not only explains his dementia, Ruth’s death, but a mission he must carry out. Each day he wakes, Zev has forgotten where he is and his current circumstance, so he must turn to the letter to remember. Zev escapes from the living facility and takes a train to Ohio, hoping to find a man that he and Max knew from Aschwitz during the war. Zev’s first stop is Cleveland at a local gun shop where he purchases a Glock pistol.
The audience must piece together the plot, hope there is a pay off because things move as slow as Zev walks and for many viewers this will be a problem.
The awkward and frailty of Zev’s situation is explained when he encounters a young child on the train (coincidence that Mckellen’s character in Mr. Holmes also had a revealing conversation with a young boy). Their conversation on the onset looks like a jolly grandfather speaking to a young kid. However, when Zev wakes up from a nap, disoriented, the child is frightened. Only moments ago they were having a good time, now Zev doesn’t know who the boy is. A doctor in the film explains to the audience and Zev’s son that with dementia, any traumatic emotional event can increase neuro cognitive disorder. The audience must piece together the plot, hope there is a pay off because things move as slow as Zev walks and for many viewers this will be a problem.
From the moment Zev asks the gun owner to write down the instructions to use the Glock, the suspense begins to build. It’s not at what he might do with this gun, but how unequipped he is to be traveling on his own, especially with this “mission”. Often Remember feels like it might be more suited on the page or a radio narration that a cinematic feature. For much of the film there is not visually arresting images or development. Atom Egoyan’s direction doesn’t offer much stimulation for the audience, neither does the film live or die on how well Plummer delivers. The payoff in the end makes the entire film worth watching, although I predict the savvy filmgoer will already guess the twist.
A mystery that delivers based on the audience endurance for pacing.