The Talking Dead

Like Black Mirror? You’ll probably like Marjorie Prime

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Marjorie Prime
RPL Film Theatre
Nov. 16–19

Marjorie Prime is one of those low-profile releases that take you by surprise. It’s an illuminating take on the role of memory in our lives: unreliable, malleable and often a sham, it’s insane how much we rely on it.

The setup wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Black Mirror. In the near future, holographic projections of dead family members are used for therapy. The holograms’ behaviour is based on the background information they are provided, from common history to personality traits, while displaying a Siri-like eagerness to please.

Marjorie (86-year-old Lois Smith in a rare lead role) has chosen to interact with her husband at his prime (Jon Hamm). This causes friction with his daughter (Geena Davis), who is jealous of the avatar and wishes to get closer to her mom before time runs out. As dementia slowly sets in, information Marjorie was reluctant to share finds its way to the hologram, forcing her to deal with her demons.

Not much happens in the sense of a plot, but the characters’ complexity makes up for it. Ostensibly based on a play, writer/director Michael Almereyda (Experimenter) uses his actors to widen this world to great effect. Very gently, the film presents questions likely to materialize sooner rather than later: If you could have your spouse/parent back from the dead, with all their qualities and none of their defects, would you? Furthermore, is it even the same person?

The film packs a couple of devastating twists I won’t spill here. Suffice to say, it goes beyond what we are led to expect early on (Tim Robbins as Marjorie’s son-in-law becomes the surprising MVP). If you’re up for a dark journey of the soul, Marjorie Prime is a sure thing.