Peter Dinklage and Julia Ormond Use Technology to Deal With Grief in Emotional ‘Rememory’
If you could go back and watch scenes of your past just as you would a video, would you? This is the question posed in “Rememory,” an unusually emotional sci-fi film from writer/director Mark Palansky. Peter Dinklage stars as Sam Bloom, a man who goes searching following the loss of his brother (Matt Ellis) in a horrific car crash that he caused. Sam finds himself drawn to Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan), a scientist who created a machine that reaches inside people’s subconscious in order to allow them not only to relive past experiences, but also to save those experiences on chips for others to view. After Gordon is murdered, Sam finds himself drawn to his widow Carolyn (Julia Ormond), a woman who has also experienced much grief and sorrow, not only because of her husband’s death, but also because of his betrayal and the loss of their young daughter.
Entertainment Voice spoke with Julia Ormond, who is best known for her roles in “Legends of the Fall,” “First Knight,” the remake of “Sabrina,” and, most recently, a recurring role on “Mad Men.” The actress revealed what attracted her to a sci-fi film, which is such a departure from her previous work. “I’m a huge fan of Peter’s. I loved the script that Mark had written, and I also just loved how resonating it was with today’s challenges. I think something that all of us are struggling with is what the role of technology is and unpacking how technology is universal, but it’s also neither good nor bad. How does technology either inform or elevate the human experience? And what are the differences between technology and our human experience?”
Some of the most affecting scenes involve the memories that are shown. In addition to experimenting on himself and his wife, Gordon uses a focus group, with varying results. In one of his final roles, the late Anton Yelchin gives an explosive performance as one of the test subjects, who, like everyone in the group, is forced to view traumatic memories along with the happy ones.
“The memories that you see Mark use that flash up are these little fragments that we can all relate to of birthday parties, and scenes at the beach, and a dog dying, and an old man looking at a woman’s cleavage, just all of these kinds of little things that add up,” said Ormond. “I found it quite amusing and profound, these flashes of common experiences. I think all of us get trapped into this idea that life is all about these huge moments of achievement…, but these memories allowed us to flashback to these little moments that we all have, and it’s so universal and so beautiful.”
Ormond spoke about what it is like to film some of the most emotionally-charged scenes, particularly the ones in which Carolyn is back at the beach with her little girl. “I think that preparation was very much guided by Mark and was supported by very sensitive producers and a wonderful, sensitive crew. It was just one of those really beautiful experiences. For me, it was about understanding this perspective, and I think what I wanted to bring to it was not that she was extraordinary in any way, but she was a very normal, average person having these extraordinary experiences. I tried to color it by making it not histrionic, but as pedestrian as possible, as real as possible.”
In the end, Carolyn comes to a decision about whether the benefits of her husband’s invention outweigh the pain it has caused. Would Ormond herself use the machine in real life? “No. It might be helpful to have someone else process my memories, but I came away kind of trusting the human experience, and I sort of felt like, even if it was a beautiful experience, I don’t want to go back into it because it might dilute my relationship to all the others.” However, she does believe that the machine did some good, as it helped Carolyn experience some catharsis regarding the death of her daughter. “In the moment that she is able to step into this memory that’s so vivid of being able to be with her daughter again in this painful moment of losing a child. I think in grief people say, ‘I wish I could just have one more moment with them.’ Somehow that moment for me allowed her to let it go in a healthy way, instead of being trapped by it and held by it, unhealthily.”
A highlight of the film is the friendship between Sam and Carolyn, as both Dinklage and Ormond give stunning, emotional performances. Sadly, because Sam has to lie to get close to her, this relationship based on lies does not turn romantic or sexual, despite off-the-charts chemistry between the duo.
“He’s fabulous. He has so much integrity as an actor,” Ormond gushes about Dinklage. “Certainly for myself, and I think for him, I felt like [‘Rememory’] was a really good vehicle. I was grateful to see him be given a vehicle where he could show a side of himself that – I probably haven’t seen every piece that he’s done – but where he could shine as an actor, but at the same time not be showy. He’s incredibly smart on keeping real… He’s deliciously wicked and funny, always ready to play. Very supportive, gently, gently supportive and just completely embracive of everyone’s needs on set. He’s just a giant of a performer.”
The experience she had in making “Rememory” has inspired Ormond to further explore life through science fiction, possibly in future roles. “I find as an actor, and as a storyteller, my career has been based on doing sort of biopics, playing people from the past, and I would say that definitely each role that you have, it kind of informs you and changes you. We’re all in this rather confusing, dark and often terrifying times, and I think looking to future is helping us process that as human beings in terms of what’s good, what’s bad. How do we have responsibility around technology that is neither good nor bad, it just is… It’s up to us as human beings to evolve and work out how we use it for the good of everyone.”
The immediate future for Ormond holds the premiere of “Howards End,” an upcoming television mini-series based on the classic Edwardian novel in which she plays big-hearted society wife Ruth Wilcox. The actress and mother also works to make the world a better place through her non-profit organization ASSET, which works to end human trafficking.
“Rememory” opens Sept. 8 in select theaters and is available on Google Play.