By Adam Ray Palmer
This week is all about Sundance 2018, but let’s flash back one year ago (ironically for the film!) as we take a look at Marjorie Prime that’s out on DVD this Monday.
Written and directed by Michael Almereyda and based on Jordan Harrison's Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name; Marjorie Prime stars Jon Hamm, Lois Smith, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins.
Marjorie (Lois Smith) is 86 years old and grappling with dementia. Her loving daughter (Geena Davis) and son-in-law (Tim Robbins) have obtained a companion for her: a "Prime". A ‘Prime’ is a developing-AI hologram that helps you cope with certain matters, in this case, Marjorie’s memory loss and the family’s concerns. Marjorie’s Prime is of her long-dead husband, Walter (Jon Hamm), as he was in his 40s.
Walter Prime only knows how to ‘act’ or ‘behave’ based on what the family/humans tell him from their own memoires – this is where the narrative deepens due to the fragility of the human mind, but more on that later. Over the run time, other Primes serve other reasons for the family as they cope with issues of aging.
This feature-length Black Mirror-like episode will interest Charlie Brooker fans. It’s aesthetically pleasing and charmingly crafted with a steady-paced narrative. There’s no dramatic scenes, there’s no stunts but you cannot move for tense and intimate sequences that really are thought-provoking. This will turn off some viewers but make others go all-in.
Marjorie Prime is an intelligent take on how humans process and recall memories, how we re-tell them, or even how we choose to remember them. It poses questions about where the truth can be found in the realities as each character evokes personal memories in their own way, tackling difficult subjects that they have chosen to bury for one reason or another. The ‘Black Mirror effect’ is ever-present due to the futuristic style to the narrative but also with its insightful look at how humans feel about technology in the modern world.
The film benefits from honest and subtle performances from all cast members, giving the movie emotional foundations for the audience to feel more vulnerable and interacted with. It lures you in with challenges of identity, time/memory and mortality. The moving classical soundtrack echoes the intense story, which in certain scenes is very reminiscent of a Walt Disney picture. I think this film will be a crowd-splitter, but for me, that’s exactly what the movie wants to achieve; technology and contemplating time – are you in or out?
Cineroom’s rating: 3.5 stars
Marjorie Prime is out on DVD Monday 29th January – certificate 12A