‘Embers’ review: Mysterious sci-fi movie questions memory with Jason Ritter


Claire Carré picked a really strange, challenging idea for her first feature as director. Embers is a bizarre science fiction movie that asks more questions than it cares to answer. With only one recognizable actor in the film, it would be hard to see this movie gaining wide interest.

Embers, written by Carré and Charles Spano, is set in a mysterious post-apocalyptic world where everyone wakes up each day without memory of what happened before. There’s no explanation for why the world is like this or what happened. Spano and Carré hint at it through notes we spot on the table of a former teacher (Tucker Smallwood), but it is never made clear.

The audience sees the world through the eyes of a group of unconnected characters. Jason Ritter, the only known star in the film, and Iva Gocheva play a couple who aren’t even sure if they are a couple. Tucker Smallwood (who was in Pixels) is a teacher who tries to remember things by reading all day. Karl Glusman (Gasper Noe’s Love) is billed as “Chaos” because he goes around trashing things and contemplates ending his life.

There is a young boy played by Silvan Friedman who meets both the teacher and Chaos, but does not speak. He might be the future of the world, but – again – it’s not clear. Can the boy remember things? We don’t know, but he sure enjoys learning about the world.

Strangely, the most interesting story in the film centers on a character who doesn’t even see the world of ruins. Greta Fernandez plays Miranda, a woman sheltered in a bunker by her father (Roberto Cots) for nine years. Each day, her routine includes remembering her name and going through a computer to remember what her mother looked like. The production design of the bunker is incredible, as the opposite of everything on the outside. It shows what the world could have been like if people remembered things. Fernandez's performance is also a standout and if more people see this movie, she should certainly win more roles.

However, since Miranda is struggling to leave the bunker, it appears that Carré and Spano are suggesting that there’s a magic to not remembering anything. Without memory, we are forced to return to our natural instincts. But there is danger in that, as we see with the couple when Gocheva is injured.

Carré has crafted an incredibly original sci-fi film that certainly can hold your attention for 84 minutes. But it is disappointing to see that the film doesn’t go one step further to explain what’s going on. Open-ended films can be thought-provoking, but you still need a story to take place in the world you’ve created.

Embers was screened at the Savannah Film Festival, presented by the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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