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A trauma of any type will always have a lasting effect. Whether a survivor wants it or not, painful memories of the past always come back. What if you openly question the struggle? What if a victim comes forward to reveal the reasons for what happened? What if someone who should be believed denies the truth. Memory can be a tricky game, and it can change. What if trauma was a fabricated way to exploit others? Or perhaps not?
Jessica Chastain plays Sylvia, a social worker that seems to need help. Her life is simple and filled with strict schedules. She rarely varies from it. She seems to have lost all interest in anything. She is tired, exhausted, and her sole focus is on her current existence—and her daughter. Saul, played by Peter Sarsgaard, begins to follow her. His presence brings back memories from high school—memories that hurt so much she appears stuck in that world that never released its grip on her. But there is one little problem—Saul has dementia and no longer remembers the details of what caused Sylvia to become who she is now.
Written and directed by Michel Franco, “Memory” is a slow-burning drama that provides a truthful approach to childhood trauma. It shows that anyone, even adults, can be vulnerable to the misunderstandings of society, and those who are around them, who would rather judge and offer empathy than compassion. Sylvia has a tendency to invent stories, possibly just to get attention. She accuses Saul in an unthinkable way of sexual harassment when she was younger. Due to his progressive dementia the man cannot remember anything. The two men, despite their strange encounter, go down memory lane together, one trying to find the path to forget and the other wanting to remember.
An exceptional ensemble of actors, including The Good Wife’s Josh Charles, Merritt Wever, Jessica Chastain, and Peter Sarsgaard, delves deep into what is called memory. The film teaches to listen to the victim and not ignore red-flags. The worst thing is to be rejected and denied justice. This is worse than any trauma that could be treated. But how can you ask for help when no one is listening or believing? This is why “Memory” unfolds the way it should. You cannot judge anyone. There is a fine-line between denial and being refused, and the journey that you embark on is well worth discovering.