Christopher Plummer and Atom Egoyan are two Canadians working in film that are responsible for putting this country in the map in Hollywood. While Christopher Plummer has been for over 60 years one of the True North’s most respected actors with his excellent turns in films like The Sound of Music, Malcolm X, Twelve Monkeys, The Insider, A Beautiful Mind, Up, The Last Station, Beginners, and Inside Man, Atom Egoyan (Ararat, The Sweet Hereafter) has been in a serious slump. After earning critical praise for his early film Exotica (1994) and two Oscar nominations for The Sweet Hereafter, of late his career has been plummeting due to duds like The Captive and Devil’s Knot. While Remember is not going to win any awards it does signal a type of comeback for the enigmatic Canadian director.
A film that will remind people of the film Momento with a Nazi twist to it, Remember involves subjects like family, guilt, memory, and hatred. The less said about the plot the better as it is a film that is best enjoyed when you know very little going in. Briefly, the excellent Plummer plays Zev, a survivor of the Holocaust, who is now suffering from dementia. After the death of his wife, he and another resident of the retirement facility he lives in named Max (Martin Landau – Ed Wood, Crimes and Misdemeanors) have cooked up a plan in which Zev will hunt down the former SS officer who was at Auschwitz and was responsible for the deaths of Zev’s and Max’s families.
Because of the dementia, Max has written a letter for Zev to look at each morning when he wakes up not even remembering that his wife Ruth is dead so that he can get himself back on track with the plan. There are four men across North America with the name the former Nazi took on so as to hide his true identity after the war was over. Zev steals away in the dead of night from his retirement facility on a cross continent trip that gets more incredible and emotional with each day.
It is an intriguing watch in that it is so rare that a film is released in that its protagonist is a 90-year-old man. What is even more amazing is the tension that is wrung out of every moment of the story. You ache to know what happens next even though there are parts of you that does not want the inevitable to happen. You are conflicted throughout for many reasons.
The whole thing balances on the slightly stooped shoulders of Christopher Plummer. Despite your hesitations he goes about proving that he continues at the age of 85 to be a highly watchable actor. He aptly balances a performance that is equal parts charisma, vulnerability and search for dignity. Plummer is in every scene of the movie and wonderful throughout with his measured and dignity-filled performance.
I am glad to write that Atom Egoyan is back. You cannot keep talent down for very long. He just needed to get his bearings and shows how confident he is in the way he directs this very simple yet complex story. Without relying on any flashbacks or other cinematic flairs, Egoyan tells the tale in a very linear fashion subsuming his own talent in service of the story. The stripped down way he chose to shoot the film really puts the spotlight on the character of Zev. He even skirts the landmines that are the two main subjects of the film – the holocaust and dementia. Could have been double trouble, but Egoyan’s talent allows him to avoid falling victim to bringing to the big screen a film that the public would find distasteful or disrespectful. The result is an engaging and smart film.
This is a film because of its subject matter and elderly actors will not bring crowds to the cinema. Which is a shame because many should see Christopher Plummer in action and watch the film that will lead to them coming away with many different interpretations and even more questions about what they just saw. It is not an easy film and will provoke discussion.