(director/writer: Michael Almereyda; screenwriter: based on the play by Jordan Harrison; cinematographer: Sean Williams; editor: Kathryn J. Schubert; music: Mica Levi; cast: Lois Smith (Marjorie), Geena Davis (Tess), Tim Robbins (Jon), Jon Hamm(Walter), Stephani Andujar (Julie), Lesley Lyles (Mrs. Salveson), Hannah Gross (Young Marjorie), Hana May Colley (10 yr old Marjorie Granddaughter); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michael Almereyda, Uri Singer; Film Rise; 2017)
“Curiously wonderful sci-fi film about memory.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The artful veteran filmmaker Michael Almereyda (“Nadja”/”Hamlet”) is the writer-director of this chatty but curiously wonderful scj-fi film about memory and how memory can be used as a treatment against current fears. The comedy/drama plays out like a European art film featuring many pointed conversations about relating to someone else. It’s set in the near future, and is based on the 2014 play by Jordan Harrisison.Marjorie Lancaster (Lois Smith, also in the stage version in both Los Angeles and New York) is an 85-year old widow touched by dementia.
In her comfortable Long Island beach house the former violinist speaks with Walter (Jon Hamm), who is a hologram (his service as a Prime, computerized version of her deceased financial adviser husband, was purchased to comfort her by her family). He looks similar to her late husband of 15 years ago and is restored to look like he was in his mid-40s. He’s also programmed to be a good listener. Her middle-aged daughter Tess (Geena Davis) gets the hologram to resemble her dad, but is skeptical about the project and finds it creepy. Jon (Tim Robbins) is Marjorie’s talkative son-in-law, who is enthusiastic about the project. Though Walter soothes Marjorie, she both believes and doesn’t believe he’s real. In her interactions with him, she changes her memories to fit her desires. What makes Walter complex is that his main object is to try and please Marjorie, and that gives him some depth as he must go with the ebb and flow of their conversations. What leaves Tess befuddled, is that she never had a close relationship with mom and feels awkward having one over the hologram.
How the mother-daughter relationship gets played out reminds us in some ways of Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata. In that pic the mother played by Ingrid Bergman was a pianist. The hologram is powered by a service providing an A.I. created hologram with the ability to absorb both the memories of Marjorie and the others she knew. After Marjorie dies, Jon and Tess create a hologram of her.The cast is superb. Each gives a compelling and convincing performance in this unusual plot. The thought-provoking film, about trying to overcome death, is a stellar example of an indie giving us something a commercial film usually won’t touch.
REVIEWED ON 11/22/2017 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/