Review: ‘Embers’ keeps hope burning in a world suffering from memory loss
In “Embers,” a fittingly thoughtful sci-fi meditation on memory loss and identity, a virus has rendered the not-so-distant future in a state of recurring amnesia, leaving most of humanity grappling to form tentative connections that evaporate with the next day’s rising sun.
Comprised of five concurrent story lines, the affecting first film by Claire Carré takes place a decade after a global epidemic has stricken survivors with an irreversible neurological condition prohibiting them from both recalling previous events and forming fresh memories.
Among those afflicted are a couple (Jason Ritter and Iva Gocheva) who share a tender bond even though they’re unable to remember each other’s names or what has brought them together; and a professor (Tucker Smallwood) desperate to find a cure for the “double amnesia” before the infection takes full hold of his faculties.
Meanwhile, although their underground bunker has kept a young Spanish-speaking woman (Greta Fernández) and her father (Roberto Cots) immune from the effects of the virus, the years of sterile isolation are beginning to take their toll.
With its stark images of decay and neglect (strikingly photographed by Todd Antonio Somodevilla), the film occasionally takes on the air of an artier, more existential “Memento.”
But while one wishes Carré, who shares screenplay credit with Charles Spano, might have hung those stirring visuals on more involving plotting, “Embers” nevertheless makes a strong, not to mention timely, impression.
Certainly when principal photography began in Gary, Ind., in April, 2014 (before moving on to upstate New York and then Poland), the Zika virus had yet to spread globally, and with recent developments bringing cases of microcephaly much closer to home, the story takes on a decidedly chilly layer of poignancy.
As post-apocalyptic cautionary tales go, “Embers” ultimately offers a spiritually affirming glimmer of hope for the future of a world that has no clue of its past.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: ArcLight Cinemas, Hollywood; also on VOD
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