Israeli video artist Omer Fast unconventionally unravels the process of filmmaking in his first narrative feature, featuring a character who obsessively stages recreations of visions he has been seeing in his mind's eye. Adapted from Tom McCarthy's debut novel, Remainder has hints of Donnie Darko and more a little familiarity from the incredibly oddball Synecdoche, New York, but doesn't quite hit the heights of either.
Rushing somewhere and pulling a black case behind him, an unnamed man (Tom Sturridge) is hit by falling debris from the London sky. After awaking from a coma and going through extensive rehabilitation, he discovers that he has been awarded with £8.5 million to keep quiet about the incident. He is plagued by strange visions of a building, a boy, an old woman and some cats on a roof, and decides to hunt down these elements in order to piece together the fragmented puzzle forming in his head. His recreations are handled by helper Naz and become more elaborate, including eventually the staging of a bank robbery.
Sturridge's character becomes like a filmmaker, manipulating and directing these recreations from his mind, while an ever-expanding roster of 'actors' are employed to carry out the actions and scripts that he envisions. The surreal nature of his visions means he must dress extras in morph suits, have people repetitively play Chopin in the same building and an old lady constantly cook liver so that the smell will waft up to his apartment. He is obsessive in capturing the detail, repeating the process over and over again to the befuddlement of all others involved.
Omer Fast must be taking a pop at his own desire to get the world of his own imagination onto screens. You almost expect the camera to turn around to point at Fast's crew who are all looking at him with the same perplexed expression on their faces as Sturridge's character’s legion of actors. Fast clearly knows what he wants from a shot, from his script and from his actors, but whether the audience will go with him is a matter of personal taste.
Remainder is an odd film, full of interesting imagery and oddly amusing moments. At times, the control Sturridge's character wishes to exert over others is more frightening than funny, but mostly its mesmerising to see him constructing and engineering his own reality. As the character plays God, the sense that he is simply directing a play with no audience but himself perhaps mirrors how Fast feels about making a movie. The repetition as the protagonist continues his rehearsals and grows happier with each 'take' also comments on our own comfort in the familiar.
With more and more cinematic universes and franchises expanding every day, Remainder is sure to stand out from the crowd. It may be about repeating yourself, but it is also about perfectionism and creating a personal vision. In that, Fast has certainly succeeded. With a trippy buzzing electric score and some wonderfully weird imagery, Remainder is a hypnotic, at times nightmarish, treat.
REMAINDER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: OMER FAST / SCREENPLAY: TOM K. MCCARTHY / STARRING: TOM STURRIDGE, ED SPELEERS, ARSHER ALI, CUSH JUMBO / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10