Tom (Sturridge) loses his memory when the sky quite literally falls on him. Operation follows operation, and after months of rehabilitation, he re-enters society, albeit without the faintest clue what happened to him, or what his life was like before the incident. When the unnamed company responsible make him a compensatory offer of millions of pounds, he begins to reconstruct a new reality based on the fragments of his memory.
With Remainder, director Omar Best tests the patience of his audience by denying any real insight or clue into what is really going on. So much is initially ambiguous, so much confused by an intentional smokescreen of strangeness that you feel yourself being unavoidably disarmed. As much as you might hope to get a handle on the plot, this becomes a futile exercise before the narrative begins to slowly cohere in the final act. When it does the ambition of the movie becomes evident. This isn’t a film of moments, of neatly scripted scenes that stand out on their own. This is a film that only makes sense as a whole and for their refusal to conform to any Hollywood simplicity the filmmakers must be applauded.
The issues come for the same reasons that make it so interesting. There is a cold distance to the performances, almost as if the director has asked his cast to act as uniformly ‘grey’ as possible. There is little variety or development in any of the characters and this flat blandness, while contributing to the overall intrigue, gives the film a very sterile feel. Never do you have an emotional response to what you’re watching, something reflected in the protagonist Tom who travels through the film with an aura of malevolent disinterest, single-minded in his goal at the expense of any approachability.
Despite its flaws, and in many ways because of them, Remainder is a film worth seeking out. When everything does finally come together you get a sense of what the director is striving for but be prepared for an element of frustration, however much you may enjoy its inherent complexity.
REMAINDER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: OMER FAST / STARRING: TOM STURRIDGE, CUSH JUMBO, ED SPELEERS, ASHER ALI / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 24TH