Memoria (CREDIT: NEON)

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Jeanne Balibar, Elkin Díaz, Juan Pablo Urrego, Daniel Giménez Cacho

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Running Time: 136 Minutes

Rating: Unrated

Release Date: December 26, 2021 (Never-Ending Theatrical Release, One Theater at a Time)

Tilda Swinton is woken up by a loud bang, and then she just doesn’t know what to do. That is the premise (or the beginning, as “premise” might be a bit of a stretch) of the new film Memoria. It’s directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who’s probably best known to American audiences for his meditative, Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. That earlier film was a challenge to anyone expecting a straightforward, fast-moving plot, but it was a balm to anyone else looking for something soothing and reflective. I imagine that Memoria will be a challenge even among those who loved Uncle Boonmee (myself included), but if you prize ambiguity and existential mystery in your cinema, then it might just be right up your alley.

It’s difficult to get into the specifics of Memoria, because, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the specifics are. I can say that Swinton’s character is named Jessica and that she’s currently in Colombia and that she spends the film walking around various locales in the country. But beyond that, I’m at a loss. There are at least two scenes that had a significant effect on me, so I’ll mention those. The first involves Jessica and a few others watching an impromptu jazz performance at a university. If Memoria had suddenly decided to turn into a concert film at that moment, I wouldn’t have complained!

Then about halfway through comes the scene that I suspect many viewers will consider the crux of it all. Jessica is walking through the jungle when she encounters a man who appears to live there. He offers wisdom that somehow immediately strikes a chord with the journey that she’s on. Is this where the key to unlocking the answers about Memoria resides? Perhaps, but if those answers do exist, I have my doubts that they’ll fit with any traditional definition of what it means to be an answer.

Ultimately, my singular, subjective experience of this film is appreciation more than adoration, but that might gradually change over time. It certainly did with Uncle Boonmee, and I’m glad that Weerasethakul has been given the space to follow his own muse.

Memoria is Recommended If You Like: Gentle confusion

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Bangs