|'all high ideas and concepts about pushing film structure and language, with few of the basic underpinnings in place'|
Remainder piles several elements that can make for a unappetising film on top of each other and, like a mad scientist with a little knowledge and no clue, hopes that they emerge at the other end as something palatable. The risk has to be applauded but risk like this needs to be reigned in and tightened. At its worst, Remainder looks and feels like a pretentious student production; all high ideas and concepts about pushing film structure and language, with few of the basic underpinnings in place.
The plot sees Tom Sturridge's Tom crushed by a falling piece of building in the opening. Slowly recovering, he's the recipient of a large payout from sources undefined; a payout he uses to stage expensive reproductions of the former life he can no longer remember. Who was he and what was he doing, and is this side project a quest to reestablish his life, or life itself?
The first of the unpalatable elements creeps in quickly. Tom is a terrible person. Increasingly you see him as 'boss' to fixer-cum-producer Naz (Arsher Ali) and Sturridge plays him appropriately as a jumped-up upstart who won't accept the smallest thing out of place or incorrect answer back. It's irritating and it gets under your skin, but Sturridge is at least good at this sort of thing, as shown in Far From The Madding Crowd.
As the narrative progresses though it becomes increasingly impossible to care for Tom and what he's doing. Writer/director Omer Fast is unconcerned with revealing everything about his story (another of the problematic elements), which leaves his film rooted to Tom. As the protagonist gets increasingly wrapped up in the development of his recreated memory he gets more and more distant from the audience as the plot spirals to parts unknown.
Which leads us to the final problem. Ambiguous narratives are my favourite sort of narrative, but there's ambiguity and mess and Remainder falls well within the latter. The open-ended conclusion would work if some of the other plot items were tied up. There's a pair of corrupt policemen interested in Tom, for example, and whilst you can figure out why, their characterisation is straight from central casting and they show up just when things need a bit of disruption. Tom's friends, particularly Catherine (Cush Jumbo), are uninteresting hangers on at the start and reappear at the end, again without much explanation as to their motivations.
There is something here and the dedication to the twisty, undefined narrative is brave, but there's a lot of vital polish missing.