January 18, 2024

REEL | Jessica Chastain Jogs Her 'Memory' x TIFF 2023

"You're the only man who stayed."
Jessica Chastain Michel Franco | Memory
Toronto International Film Festival
Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco directs a low-key but bittersweet relationship drama starring Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard as two damaged souls who form an unconventional bond. Memory tells a slow, deliberate story centred on its two main characters without much fanfare or style but resonates strongly thanks to its impressive minimalist storytelling.

Sylvia (Chastain) and Saul (Sarsgaard) cross paths after the latter follows the former home after a high school reunion as he becomes confused due to early onset dementia. Saul's family then hires Sylvia to look after him during the day and go on walks to lift his spirits.

Franco reveals Sylvia's baggage upfront during glimpses at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, doing social work at an adult daycare, and her past trauma of surviving sexual abuse as a child. What happened to Saul is more slowly doled out as the two grow closer over their shared experiences. As a two-hander, Chastain and Sarsgard ground the simple yet effective drama superbly.

Chastain's soulful performance against Sarsgaard's affable demeanour makes Memory such a strong character piece. Its spareness is what cements the film as such a moving journey without any over-reliance on exposition. We witness how the pair come together, where their traumas came from, and how they find comfort in each other despite common hardships.

Memory screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations program.

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