Omer Fast’s debut feature is a strikingly original drama, featuring Tom Sturridge and Cush Jumbo
Given that its debut director is adapting a debut work of fiction, Remainder is a film of remarkable accomplishment. In bringing British author Tom McCarthy’s ambitious novel (written in 2001, published in 2005) to the screen, Israeli video artist Omer Fast constructs a complex, beguiling study of the impact of memory on our emotional well-being, and the catastrophic effect the failure of the former can have on the health of the latter.
These weighty themes are distilled into the experiences of Tom (an excellent Tom Sturridge), a young man who loses his memory after being involved in a catastrophic accident. Awarded millions in damages, he employs accommodating right-hand man Naz (Arsher Ali) and begins to pay actors to endlessly recreate his snatches of remembrances, in an increasingly extravagant, ever-more desperate attempt to reconnect with his sense of self.
Thematically, Remainder has much in common with filmmaker Grant Gee’s Orhan Pamuk adaptation Innocence of Memories, but is far more experimental in structure. As Tom’s story unfolds, and key figures such as love interest Catherine (The Good Wife’s Cush Jumbo) drift in and out, reality and memory converge and time becomes an abstract concept that stands in the way of knowledge. And as Tom’s behaviour becomes more outlandish, the film is anchored by the enduring sense that enlightenment is, tantalisingly, just out of reach.
While Fast has long been concerned with philosophical notions of truth and artifice, as evidenced in artistic works such as ‘Take a Deep Breath’, he proves adept at translating his existential vision into an alluring cinematic experience. Admittedly, it does demand substantial investment from its audience, as its opaque narrative wilfully forces the viewer into the same fugue state as its protagonist.
Fuelled by terrific performances, superb production design by Adrian Smith and claustrophobic cinematography from Lukas Strebel, Remainder is a strikingly original, hypnotic film and, by the time it reaches its bold head-scratcher of a denouement, one that leaves an indelible mark.
Selected release from Fri 24 Jun.