A unique experience is offered by a film that may be too mysterious for its own good.



Last year Omer Fast’s debut feature Remainder was shown at the London Film Festival in the section devoted to Experimenta, a fact that seemed to fit with the fact that Fast’s previous work had been in video and installation pieces for art galleries. However, I had heard it said that that categorisation was hardly right for a film that played as an off-beat thriller. As it turns out both views can be supported, but that is because rather uneasily Remainder starts in one mode and ends up in another.


The first half does indeed play as a thriller not light years away from Christopher Nolan’s Memento. In an effective opening sequence a man (Tom Sturridge) is seen in a London street where he suffers a sudden accident which comes close to killing him. On recovering he learns that a lawyer acting on his behalf has negotiated a remarkably large payment in return for an agreement not to bring litigation or even to talk about the incident. The victim accepts but realises that he is suffering from extreme loss of memory: he is unaware of his own past and unable to trust his supposed best friend, Greg (Ed Speleers), or his Afro-American girlfriend, Catherine (Cush Jumbo), previously married to Greg and now bad-mouthed by him.


Fast, making his own adaptation of the novel by Tom McCarthy, favours non-linear narrative and the amnesia breached as it is by brief images that flash into the victim's mind lends itself to a deliberately mysterious narrative. All this is helped by an adept cast, but even more by the fact that Fast in his use of sound, music and pictures captures the sense of mystery through the absolute precision in everything that he does. So far, so good on its own terms, but the second half becomes increasingly obscure as the money acquired is applied to re-enactments of scenes past including a bank robbery that becomes a key element. But, with our protagonist now hiring people to play out roles related to this, the film becomes less of a thriller, suggesting instead among other things an allegory about artists. The final revelation unexpectedly brings to mind a classic film in another mould entirely, but it fails to hang together leaving the film’s real aims open to discussion. There is some quality work here but Remainder is unlikely to satisfy any audiences who are less than entranced by the discovery that the film they are watching is an enigma that they are expected to solve for themselves.




Cast: Tom Sturridge, Cush Jumbo, Ed Speleers, Danny Webb, Nicholas Farrell, Arsher Ali, Jumayn Hunter.


Dir Omer Fast, Pro Natasha Dack Ojumu and Malte Grunert, Screenplay (from the novel by Tom McCarthy) Omer Fast, Ph Lukas Strebel, Pro Des Adrian Smith, Ed Andrew Bird, Music Schneider TM, Costumes Sam Perry.


BFI/Tigerlily Films/Amusement Park/Soda Film + Art/Phi Films-Soda Pictures.
103 mins. UK/Germany/Canada. 2015. Rel: 24 June 2016. Cert. 15.