The star of Remember is Zev (Plummer), an elderly man with dementia. He is in a nursing home, and has trouble remembering that his wife recently died. He has made friends with another resident, Max (Landau), who has secretly sent him in search of a Nazi who was a block commander at Auschwitz, someone they both knew during WWII and feel is responsible for killing Max’s and Zev’s families. The man named is supposed to have stolen a Jew’s identity after the war in order to leave Germany and settle in the U.S. as ‘Rudy Kurlander.’ Max has tracked down four people with the name ‘Kurlander’, given Zev detailed instructions on how to get to each one, and when he recognizes the man they are looking for, Zev is to kill him.
The film has a number of problems, the most salient being that the character as written, Zev, is not convincing as someone with dementia. He remembers a number of things, such as who his son is, and somehow manages to travel by train, bus, and taxi to four different cities—even one in Canada where he must navigate the border. I think that even those in the beginning stages of dementia would have major difficulties in managing such a trip, all the while keeping track of Max’s letter and cash and following his instructions. Contradictions like these abound; at times, he cannot even remember who Max is, and has to have someone read the letter to him.
The cast is good—particularly Plummer, who is the whole reason for seeing Remember. He is captivating, even with the faulty script and editing. The film does a good job in “leading the audience on” in such a way that you’re intrigued as to exactly what Zev’s mission is, and including scenes with drama and even playfulness when Zev is talking to children. Landau is also very good in conveying critical importance to the mission he sends Zev on and reminding him to honor his promise.
Atom Egoyan is known for his earlier work (The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica), for which he received awards, but his films since then have not been acclaimed. His collaboration here with writer Benjamin August is not much help, and is more of a step away from quality filmmaking. The plot simply does not hold together.
The surprising turn of events at the end of Remember make for a climactic conclusion, but it’s a little rushed and is not related enough to the rest of the story to make it logically grounded.
Plummer as someone with dementia is a testament to his acting skills, but weak screenplay and editing detract from the film Remember.