Cinematic Releases: Amnesiac

Kate Bosworth and Wes Bentley star in Amnesiac.

"Stop calling me amnesiac!
I remember American Beauty!
Ahhhhhh.....the good old days."
Michael Polish’s Amnesiac is one of those types of things that starts and ends without an actual beginning or end, putting you somewhere awkwardly in the middle of what feels like an interrupted conversation, only in this case, the ‘thing’ is a feature film. It settles (somehow) comfortably inside the psychological thriller-genre thanks to a some visual elements that normally would have tied into the storyline, but with Amnesiac, just doesn’t seem to add anything to the film’s overall feel.  Still, it brings some standout performances by Hollywood vets that act (no pun intended) as a refreshing savior.

The film stars Kate Bosworth (Still Alice, and also happens to be Polish’s wife) and Wes Bentley, who’s been in a slew of recent releases, but possibly most notably from American Beauty, and alongside veteran actor-producer Shashawnee Hall, who not so ironically actually don’t have character names – a strategic move on the writer’s part to limit the dull confusion of trying to figure out what is - or isn’t – going on. The story moves at a glacial speed with minor and inconsequential developments, finally nestling somewhere in a snail’s pace cat-and-mouse trope.

Set primarily inside a desolate house in the middle of nowhere, Amnesiac starts off by loosely fitting together rugged pieces of a puzzle with a Groundhog Day-recurring reboot of itself. A man (Bentley) wakes up in a bed, seemingly unharmed, but held stoically captive by a woman (Bosworth) he has no recollection of. There are more than a few opportunities for it to reveal more about itself, but with each time, falls short. It’s not intentionally gory or outwardly suspenseful either, making it also fall somewhere short in the scheme of a thriller. Shashawnee Hall brings foward a powerful performance as a paper-pushing detective, haphazardly assigned this mystery of a case that has no beginning or end, but rather gives the viewer a chance to live quasi-vicariously through someone trying endlessly to piece together what little details he manages to scrounge up.

With as spoiler-free as I can possibly be while staying true to the The Movie Sleuth formula, the entire film boiled down to one sentence is this: a man wakes up, again. He never finds what he’s looking for and that isn’t entirely his fault, but with the array of dead air that comprises the majority of the film, the outcome might’ve had more to do with a prominent back story instead of the intricacies laid out at a blatant face value. 

Amnesiac is now in a limited theatrical run and is available on streaming services such as iTunes and Amazon. 


-Sarah Shafer

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