The Reel Review


An unsettling chance encounter at a high school reunion leads to an emotionally profound relationship between Sylvia, a single mother and recovering alcoholic still crippled by childhood trauma, and Saul, a widower suffering from early on-set dementia. Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard star in this understated but impactful drama.

Peter Sarsgaard and Jessica Chastain in Memory

Writer/director Michel Franco (Chronic, After Lucia) explores two types of impacted memories in Memory – those ravaged by disease and those altered by childhood trauma. Despite some frustratingly slow pacing, Chastain and Sarsgaard give haunting, lived-in performances. You really feel their characters’ pain. The supporting cast includes Josh Charles (Dead Poets Society) and Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) as Saul’s caretaker brother and daughter, and Jessica Harper (Suspiria) and Merritt Weaver (Tiny Beautiful Things, Run) as Sylvia’s respective toxic, overbearing mother and non-confrontational younger sister. Brooke Timber is a standout, as Sylvia’s wise-beyond-her-years teenage daughter looking out for her mother in her long-simmering estrangement with her mother.

Jessica Harper and Brooke Timber in Memory

Sylvia and her mother eventually do collide – in a gut-wrenching moment that reveals the latent memories that have forever fractured this dysfunctional family. It is shocking in its brutal realism. But despite so much heavy subject matter, Franco still gives us reason to be optimistic, as Sylvia and Saul, despite their murky memories, find solace from one another.


Peter Sarsgaard giving his acceptance speech at the 2023 Venice Film Festival

• Jessica Chastain was nominated for Best Lead Performance at the 2024 Independent Spirit Awards. At the Venice Film Festival, Memory was nominated for Best Film and Peter Sarsgaard won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor. During his speech, he dedicated the award to his late uncle, a beekeeper with dementia who died during the COVID pandemic.

• Jessica Chastain recommended Peter Sarsgaard for the film.

Memory was filmed in New York City.

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