Waking up from a coma after a devastating, near fatal, head injury, our unnamed protagonist (Tom Sturridge) finds himself a rich man, his lawyer friend Greg (Ed Speleers) having negotiated a massive £8 million compensation payment, but with little recollection of his life before the accident.

Isolated, he becomes a virtual recluse plagued by hallucinatory visions (which may be fragmentary memories or just dreamed fantasies) of a cavernous apartment block – it’s occupants, it’s sounds, it’s smells – he becomes obsessed with recreating it, drawing it, building detailed cardboard models. He is visited by Catherine (Cush Jumbo), a woman who witnessed his accident who it seems he was in a sexual relationship with, but, not trusting her, he drives her away with his paranoid questioning, later discovering she is Greg’s ex-wife.

The protagonist recruits a fixer, Naz (Arsher Ali), to purchase an identical building and recruit a cast of extras that will enable him to stage and restage, in minute detail, the scenes he envisages. He also hires prostitutes in order to re-enact his encounters with Catherine, becoming increasingly aggressive with them, violent.

When a local youth he’d recruited to take part in his reconstructions is murdered and then linked to a violent bank robbery, he becomes obsessed with recreating the robbery, recruiting actors and a celebrity criminal, Samuels (Danny Webb), to drill them and stage-manage the event. But as the protagonist’s obsession with authenticity becomes increasingly immersive, how far will he go?

The tale of an amnesiac trying to unlock his past by reshaping his reality, Remainder is an at times fascinating but unsatisfying existential mishmash of heist movie and psychological thriller that, like much of Israeli director Omer Fast’s video art, plays with identity and memory through repetition and misdirection, the real and the faked, loose threads hanging like a suede fringed jacket.

Clever and intricate, Remainder echoes the films of Christopher Nolan and Charlie Kaufman, in particular Synedoche, New York which was itself arguably influenced by Tom McCarthy’s original novel, but lacks the distinctiveness of their work, is ultimately uninvolving, chilly, a purely cerebral exercise that never engages on a deeper psychological or emotional level. Visually arresting, Fast’s use of stocking-masked faces is particularly effective, Remainder is a lot like it’s protagonist – obsessed with detail but blind, if not dismissive, to the bigger picture, a philosophical head-scratcher that like Ouroboros disappears up it’s own arse, it’s self-conscious surreality glib, vacuous.

As the nameless protagonist, Tom Sturridge is a self-absorbed blank, his performance bland by design, unsympathetic, only the occasional wolfish flash of sadism hinting that there ever was a personality there in the first place. His grand reconstructions reminiscent of immersive theatre, It Felt Like a Kiss in search of a point (though you can’t help but suspect that Punchdrunk would love the freedom to tie cats to a roof as Naz does to complete the protagonist’s vision), are ultimately no more than masturbatory obsessions of an OCD-afflicted sociopath.

As femme fatale Catherine, The Good Wife’s Cush Jumbo barely registers, one of many threads that goes unpulled while Ed Speleers is ambiguous and odious in equal measure as the spurned best bud who may just be looking out for his damaged BFF or may be attempting to manipulate him as part of a wider conspiracy and Arsher Ali’s fixer is the perfect manservant, sleek, smooth, fluid, an extension of his employer’s desires and will. It’s only Danny Webb however who injects some much needed life into the film his celebrity bank robber and old-school villain tearing through the film.

A sociopathic You Me Bum Bum Train by way of Bret Easton Ellis, Remainder is a wintry meditation on identity that never really knows what it is.


Movie Review: Remainder
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