'Embers': Slamdance Review

Embers still 1 - H 2016
Courtesy of Obscured Pictures
A stylish debut effort.

Survivors struggle with persistent memory loss in a postapocalyptic landscape in Claire Carre's sci-fi film.

An attractive young couple wakes up in bed together without having any idea of who or where they are in Claire Carre's artsy sci-fi film exploring the nature of memory and identity. Visually striking and thematically ambitious if unfortunately lacking narrative momentum, the stylish Embers was recently showcased at the Slamdance Film Festival.

The two presumed lovers, or possibly married couple (if that's not contradictory), are identified only as "Guy" (Jason Ritter) and "Girl" (Iva Gocheva), not surprising since they can't remember their names. It seems that they're living in that old cinematic standby, a postapocalyptic world, which in this case has resulted in a bizarre universal symptom of both short- and long-term memory loss. So, the next morning, when the guy and girl wake up again, they must go through the same ritual of bafflement and questioning, although the one thing they definitely know and appreciate is that they have the hots for each other.

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The film co-scripted by Carre and Charles Spano concentrates on several other characters as well, including a professor-type (Tucker Smallwood) who's retained the intellectual chops to survive in the barren post-industrial landscape; an apparently orphaned boy (Silvan Friedman) who he takes under his wing; and a young man (Karl Glusman) who consistently reacts to the situation with violent aggression.

We're also introduced to the beautiful Miranda (Greta Fernandez) and her father (Roberto Cots) who live in a hermetic, pristinely modernistic underground bunker that has shielded them from the memory-depriving effects of whatever's transpired. But despite the fact that she's being kept well aware of her identity, Miranda becomes increasingly frustrated by her confined existence and longs to escape, whatever the consequences.

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Obviously reminiscent of Memento with more than a little touch of Andrei Tarkovsky thrown in, Embers strains for a philosophical profundity that eludes it. And despite its brief running time, so little actually happens in the plot that it feels much longer than it is. But the film has many resonant moments, especially in its charming depiction of the relationship between the couple who decide that they should kiss to see if they're indeed romantically involved. It's metaphorical aspects like that, and the striking visuals that delineate the stark contrast between the worlds above and below ground, that make Embers memorable.

Venue: Slamdance Film Festival

Production: Chaotic Good, Papaya Films, Bunker Features

Cast: Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernandez, Tucker Smallwood, Karl Glusman, Roberto Cots, Dominique Swain, Matthew Goulish, Silvan Friedman

Director/editor: Claire Carre

Screenwriters: Claire Carre, Charles Spano

Producers: Charles Spano, Claire Carre, Mevlut Akkaya, Karen Fischer, Warren Fischer

Executive producers: Kacper Sawicki, Pawel Bondarowicz, Jason Hill

Director of photography: Todd Antonio Somodevilla

Production designer: Chelsea Oliver

Composers: Kimberly Henninger, Shawn Parke

Not rated, 86 minutes