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MEMORY (2023)

Release Date: 01/05/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama.

Studio: Ketchup Entertainment. 

"Sylvia is a social worker who leads a simple and structured life. This is blown open when Saul follows her home from their high school reunion. Their surprise encounter will profoundly impact both of them as they open the door to the past." 


When Sylvia (Jessica Chastain) attends a high school reunion party with her sister, a bearded man approaches her table, sits down beside her, and stares at her without saying anything. They stare at each other for a beat until Jessica abruptly stands up and leaves the party. The man, somewhat creepily, follows her home. Although he always maintains a safe distance from her, the impending fear looms as Sylvia quickly makes her way from the train station through the darkened NYC streets. In the morning, she wakes to find him sitting outside her front door. She calls a man to come get him and thus begins down a new path with the unknown man.


This hiccup disrupts Jessica’s otherwise extremely structured life. She lives with her daughter in an apartment in a somewhat rough neighborhood. Her door has three locks and an alarm system that she faithfully sets upon entering. Her routine is strict. Get up, clean the apartment, go to work at the adult daycare where she helps those who cannot care for themselves, spend time with her daughter, and occasionally attend an AA meeting. The structure seems to keep her grounded in the present, but her chance encounter with Saul (Peter Sarsgaard) sets things in motion. He has early onset dementia and Sylvia winds up caring for him during the day. Despite their rocky beginning based on a mistaken identity, they grow fond of each other. But both rely on routines and their growing attachment puts that in jeopardy.


Part of what makes Memory so interesting is the exploration of the different types of memory and how we either hold onto it or lose it. Saul struggles with short-term memory the most, which means he can’t remember conversations unless he writes them down. He can’t enjoy movies because he can’t recall what happened in earlier scenes. But he can remember Sylvia and that he likes her. Sylvia is struggling with her own memories of childhood abuse at the hands of first her father and then older boys at school. These memories are ones she might wish she could forget (and in fact tried to with the help of a bottle).


At the heart of the movie are two understated but moving performances from Chastain and Sarsgaard. Chastain’s rigidness at the beginning gives way to a woman who opens herself to new possibilities while simultaneously confronting difficult relationships with her family. Sarsgaard portrays a gentle man who has accepted the fate of his mind, slowly losing all memory, but grasping at connections when he has the opportunity. Their chemistry is unmatched and there’s a sizzling tension as if waiting for the next bad thing to hit the pair.


Memory is a quiet film that would be easy to overlook, but after watching this understated character study once it’ll leave lingering wisps of contemplation in your own memory about healing, connection, and what it means to remember.


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