I just caught Remainder (2015) purely on recommendation from Mark Kermode a film he compared with Synecdoche, New York (2006) another film that caught my imagination in terms of how realities are constructed, both within the film and the theoretical consequences of those constructions. When Tom (Tom Sturridge) suffers brain damage in an awful accident in London, his whole life becomes fragmented. Having to start over again really. Learn to walk, move, to be him again, which is something we never really see, more a version that is after the accident. After a massive payout from the accident he’s in a financial position to try to understand what happened to him. That’s before we see a guy who alienates his brother, his ex and those who just want to help him. Is this him before after the accident, an abrasive guy who just can no longer function normally in society. You would want to steer clear of this guy for a while at least, could it be the brain damage that has altered his personality? None of these questions are really answered.
Instead with a payout (around £8.5 million) he sets about reconstructing a fractured memory. With the money behind him he can start to realise what is going on in his tormented head. Turning to Naz (Arsher Ali) who is quickly hired as his PA, producer and general assistant who takes more than he really has to. A guy who is the conscience of the film – not that you’d really know as he is rather passive unless really needed, You could easily read a sexual relationship of dominator and dominated – Naz being mostly dominated throughout this odd yet rather fascinating film.
I would like to have known how the accident first occurred as we discover it acts as time-loop that would in theory allow the events to unfold infinitely which would allow for a more horrific and disturbing film than what we have. So what do we have when he’s back on his feet. A loner with financial freedom to try and reconstruct his memory, or one specific one, as the clip above begins to really move the plot forward which up until then does drag, as we like Tom are unsure of where things are going, just as much as we are. After the meeting which goes pretty well, we begin to see the perfectionist really breaking out, the control freak who through ear pieces and pure power, his memory starting to resurface. It’s rather odd to see an old lady being told at whim to move forward and then in reverse, to have the sound levels reduced, everything is at his whim. It’s not virtual reality – or is it. It’s a reality that he has constructed to allow him to explore what is or what.
I’m very much reminded of Synecdoche, New York when a theatre director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) construct and direct a whole world. Yet there’s more creative freedom in this controlled environment. He allows his actors to bring their own interpretations of the roles. It’s a collaborative construction, not one that’s dictated. He has the remote control. There’s no delegation here. The similarities lie in the loss of time, it has no meaning here, only to allow us to re-enact what is going on in and now outside of his head. Both are driven for the truth and at great cost to the men. Before long we see him paying actors to play-out a more intimate moment in his flat, is his torturing himself or wanting to understand this moment in his life. He’s deadly serious and shows no or little thought for those who are part of his recreations.
The action moves from the block of flats to a reconstruction of a bank where a robbery took place, Tom’s fascinated to understand what went on there, how it played out. But why, and how is that connected to him. Only a guy he knew – Chris (Jumayn Hunter) whose killed and believed to be linked to the crime. It’s an avenue he must explore, an instinctive urge within him to explore. He doesn’t care what lengths he goes to, he’s almost suicidal in his acts. The robbery becomes the central focus of the film as Tom begins to pay for a full-scale replica of the bank, the street it’s on and the sky above. It’s like a film set without the cameras to capture the action, no audience to witness the crime, just actors who blindly replay the scene over and over again. A time-loop which can be controlled at his whim.
I was disturbed at the lengths he goes to, the control freak nature of the character makes him very unlikable, yet we carry on watching as we want to know what is this all about. A clinically controlled set that is carrying out the same test right up until the final test where reality is the new variable, shaking up the cards, going out to the real location, the actors have been lab-rats in one giant laboratory experiment, with no real purpose more than to explain the fragments of the mind of a guy that you come to really dislike. It’s the whole process and methodology that keeps you involved in the dark film that really gives you little to work with.
Patients who suffer with amnesia would relish being to have the freedom to re-enact scenes from their fragmented or lost memories in hoping to fill in the lost parts of their long-term memory. I was drawn to the low-key initial creations, the drawings and cardboard models that allowed Tom to start to piece together his past, which turns out to be a vicious circle he is doomed to repeat, there’s no room for change here, not like in Groundhog Day (1993) which allowed weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) to relive and learn from the day and improve himself in order to finally escape this loop which first was too much to handle. Tom is nothing like Phil, who was just as unlikable to begin but finds redemption in his ability to learn and grow. This is pure sci-fi that shows sometimes are destiny can sometimes never be altered. Flawed yet deeply fascinating, with questions that are left unanswered after seeing a guy we hardly know become someone you care little about yet your hanging onto know whats going to happen