If someone murdered your family, would you truly carry your desire for vengeance to your grave? How old and how addled would you have to be before your hatred ebbs and, if not exactly peace, apathy takes its place?
In Atom Egoyan’s Remember, there’s no best way to serve revenge, so long as it is indeed served. The film opens in a New York nursing home, where 90-year-old Zev (Christopher Plummer) wakes up every morning calling for Ruth, his recently deceased wife. Zev, with shaky hands and an even shakier memory, has dementia, yet his friend Max (Martin Landau) tasks him with a mission after the final day of sitting shiva for Ruth.
Max plans every detail and writes it all down for Zev to reference: They are Auschwitz survivors, and the SS officer responsible for killing their families has emigrated from Germany under the name Rudy Kurlander. He has never been prosecuted. And Zev had promised himself, his wife, and Max that after Ruth died, he would hunt down Kurlander and murder him.
There are four Rudy Kurlanders in North America; three in the U.S. and one in Canada. So Zev takes Max’s cash, detailed itinerary, and fervid support and hits the road, referring often to Max’s letter when confused and being greeted by the drivers and at the hotels his friend has arranged for him.
Remember, by freshman scripter Benjamin August, is Holocaust-themed but doesn’t guilt you into liking it. The story thrills instead of weeps, with you fearful for Zev every uncertain step of the way. Though Zev is self-effacing and polite—not to mention in mourning—he’s apparently as determined as Max is, mustering confidence whenever he’s unsure, particularly when he has to buy a gun or, later, aim it with a wobble. He checks in with Max, and vice versa, and trusts his instructions.
There are quibbles to be had along Zev’s journey, including an unrealistic situation at a Midwestern thrift store and the baffling casting of a Rudy Kurlander who’s two decades too young for the part, necessitating obvious makeup. Otherwise, the film’s a treat: Plummer, and to a lesser extent Landau, are terrific, giving sharp performances that defy their mid-80s ages. (Plummer is particularly astonishing when you consider his youthful, freshly uncloseted character in 2011’s Beginners, for which he won an Oscar.) You may notice Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris credited before Landau; that’s because his turn as an anti-Semite is so extraordinarily vile, his is one of the most memorable scenes of a continuously shocking story.
The end is also a jolt, though a bit of bite is taken out by exposition that is mishandled and arguably unnecessary. Among Egoyan’s filmography, Remember is one of his finest—it makes 2010’s Chloe seem an exercise in juvenility that renders the performances of two beautiful women less enticing than those of two elderly men.
Memory is also an uncertain thing in Creative Control, the second feature from director, co-writer, and smug star Benjamin Dickinson. Dickinson plays David, the head of a marketing team who has just won the campaign for a pair of augmented-reality glasses. As a perk, David gets a pair. And he immediately uses them to, uh, get another pair.
You see, David has a crush on his friend’s girlfriend, Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), even though he lives with his own longtime girlfriend, Juliette (Nora Zehetner). With the glasses, he can scan Sophie’s face—and happens to run into her as soon as he leaves his office with them—match it to the body shape of his choice, and call up a faux fuck whenever he has a shit-faced moment to himself. And because he’s apparently sex-starved from a justifiably unhappy Juliette, he has a lot of such moments.
David is an ass, which makes the entire film hard to care about. He pops unidentified pills and gets falling-down drunk, acts like a child toward Juliette (guys: boob-grabbing is not the best come-on), and generally seems to think he’s superior to everybody. That includes his best friend, Wim (Dan Gill, who looks like he should be in Eastbound & Down instead of a drama), a fashion photographer who regularly beds his models. So we’ve got two winners here.
David’s virtual affair is the crux of the movie, which is filmed in black and white with the exception of digitized Sophie. And it’s a boring one. Or, rather, robotic: Sophie’s avatar is stiff and unquestionably computerized, which makes David’s eventual obsession, confusion, and stronger feelings toward the real Sophie baffling. The two are also purportedly best friends, and Sophie is obviously sleeping down, so it seems natural when she acts interested in David and then questionable when she’s suddenly angry about his attention. Juliette, too, is a bit of a whiner, and easily written off in both David’s life and in the film overall.
At least until the end, that is—literally, the very last scene—which turns out to be the most compelling part of the movie. It involves an intense conversation between David and Juliette that results in a radical decision. That decision, though, appears to be reneged on after a short phone call. David takes the call on his sky-high balcony; Juliette is on the other side of the door and can’t hear him. It takes only a look to convey what’s going to happen, then the credits roll. It’s a legitimately stylish close to a strainingly trendy film, suggesting that Dickinson may indeed have some talent if he could only get over himself.
Remember opens Friday at Cinema Arts Theatre. Creative Control opens Friday at Landmark’s E Street Cinema.