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Marjorie Prime Review

Marjorie Prime is a mystery film about a service that provides holographic recreations of deceased loved ones that allows a man to come face-to-face with the younger version of his late father-in-law.

If you’re not taken by the opening moments of Michael Almereyda‘s deeply affecting Marjorie Prime, there’s a good chance the film as a whole is going to slip past you, the quietly revealing, dialogue-heavy conversation spinning the first of many curious corners of an enchanting web. It’s meant to dislodge our expectations and raise a certain aura of question while staging what follows, itself a hypnotic descent into what it means to be human.

In a near future, an elderly woman named Marjorie (Lois Smith) sits with her husband Walter (Jon Hamm), discussing their pasts, especially since she’s been steadily having lapses. The thing is though, it’s not really Walter, since he died fifteen years ago. Instead, it’s the latest, state-of-the-art hologram technology that recreates in exacting detail a deceased person, and it’s hoped that this younger version of Walter would help Marjorie deal with her life and loses. The highly-advanced program develops further as the conversations continue, applying what it’s learned, which is sometimes altered truths, and a lot of it is coming from Marjorie’s son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins), married to her daughter Tess (Geena Davis), who is not happy with the new Walter’s presence and suffers from her own haunts. Jon has lengthy private talks with the hologram, shaping much of what it brings to his sessions with Marjorie. And yet this is only the beginning. Perhaps all is not as it seems.

One the greater achievements in several good contemporary science fiction films is how well that fiction is deeply buried, only hinting at the time the film is set. This goes as much for Marjorie Prime, as it keeps its science fiction in the peripheral but always present. What’s more at play is the misdirection and complex relationships of the characters. It would be a crime to let slip what that means, any further detail spoiling what the film has up its sleeve, but be assured, there are challenges with substantial rewards. At it’s core though is the art of family, the cruelty, the sorrow, the misery, joy and longing, the trust and ignorance, fallibility and imbalanced sense of belonging. We witness all of this, collect them as best we can, and search for meaning, the film allowing us to do so on our own.

Almereyda keeps this about as far removed from the science fiction it establishes as it can get, never concerned with the technology that the story introduces but rather the consequences and impact it has on the people interacting with it. It’s based on the stage play by Jordan Harrison and in many ways has similar qualities of such, the camera almost always fixed and the setting mostly two rooms, despite the presence of soft ocean waves and calming snows. However, it is nonetheless incredibly dynamic, made so by its surreal performances. While Hamm is good and Smith – who originated the role on stage – is a marvel, Davis and Robbins are unmatched, lilting and affecting. This is some of the best work of their careers.

Marjorie Prime asks a lot about what a future would be like given this technology and what it might actually mean to be human. It’s reflective and suggestive, provocative and even a little distressing. There are no easy answers, no matter how touching the end, we are left with much to consider, about the story and ourselves.

Marjorie Prime Review

Movie description: Marjorie Prime is a mystery film about a service that provides holographic recreations of deceased loved ones that allows a man to come face-to-face with the younger version of his late father-in-law

Director(s): Michael Almereyda

Actor(s): Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Tim Robbins

Genre: Drama, Mystery

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