A Dish Best Served Old (Film Review: “Remember”)

rememberPOSTER

A taught and tragic psychological thriller about a nursing home patient who turns assassin, seeking revenge on the Nazi soldier who – 70 years earlier – killed his entire family at Auschwitz. A nail biter like no other with a twisty reveal that will leave you shaken to your core.

SnapShot Plot

In the ingeniously crafted vengeance thriller, Remember, octogenarian acting legend Christopher Plummer carries the entire film on his character’s frail shoulders, proving that – like a fine wine – his talents have only increased with age.

Age and aging is very much at the center of this film about Plummer’s  cognitively impaired Zev Guttman, a German-born nursing home patient in the stages of mild-to-moderate dementia, who finds himself front and center in a one-man vendetta plot, not of his own making. The movie opens on the heels of the recent death of Zev’s wife, Ruth. This alone proves a crushing and bewildering loss to Zev but here functions as a plot device, setting in motion a plan cooked up by friend and fellow patient, Max Rosenbaum (played by the late, great Martin Landau). The details are simple: upon Ruth’s death, Zev is now free to embark on a cross-country mission to track down the former Nazi guard at Auschwitz who was singularly responsible for the extermination of both Zev and Max’s families during the Holocaust. The man has allegedly been leading a double life all these years, having stolen the name of a former Jewish prisoner and impersonating him in America. Having transformed his nursing room to a veritable home office, Max has researched all the known individuals sharing the name of their intended mark, and Zev will pay a visit to each and every one with the goal of identifying the right man, and then killing him. Because of Zev’s tenuous grip on reality, Max has written it all down for him and has pre-arranged every detail of his journey, much like a travel agent would line up a client’s transportation, lodging, etc. Except this is anything but a vacation.

 

 

Parting Shot

In 2012, at the age of 82, Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor to win an Oscar, for Beginners, and this movie three years later sees an artist at the absolute height of his powers. Referring to the film’s unique take on the subject matter – a contemporary Holocaust-themed picture with absolutely no flashbacks to that time or place – he has said of the appeal of the movie for him: “A dreaded attraction, but it draws people in. [But] it can be overdone, and I thought that this had a different angle to it—it wasn’t the story of Nazis and concentration camps.” Indeed, what the movie accomplishes with a few sound effects, Zev’s almost visceral confusion and an audience’s imagination more than makes up for the absence of flashbacks, proving them unnecessary in the end.

Controversial director, Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter; Devil’s Knot) has here delivered a master class in manipulation. The manipulation of an audience in the best sense of the word, assuming you surrender to the film, of course. On a deeper, psychological level, the manipulation at the center of the story concerns the quixotic nature of human memory and how it bends and conforms to our dreams and wishes like a shape-shifter in the night.  It also speaks to us about how memory is something that can be manipulated and molded in morally revisionist tones, given the right circumstances.

Egoyan has always displayed an orchestrated, Hitchcockian style in his movies, but none so much as here, with Remember. All the classic Hitchcock themes resonate, set to a lush yet nervous score: appearance vs. reality; the sinister in the mundane; the murkiness of one’s own point of view; and most prominently (think Vertigo and Rear Window here) the central character’s own personal handicap proving a hindrance to his ability to find the truth. In Jimmy Stewart’s case, it was in one film the detective’s fear of heights and the other, a broken leg which confined his character, Scotty, to a wheelchair. For Zev Guttman, it’s his own brain and the encroaching dementia which renders him absent from his own personal history, making him – tragically – his own worst enemy and unreliable witness.

Remember is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFxXCoprNqc

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