For writer-director Lisa Joy, Reminscience draws upon her own family’s past and its future. The film stars Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister, a private investigator who along with his business partner (Thandie Newton) helps clients retrieve lost memories.

The film, which debuted its first trailer Thursday, takes place in a near-future version of Miami, where rising sea levels are staved off by a giant wall. The heat is so unbearable that people in Miami sleep during the day and come out only at night when it’s cooler. Jackman’s Nick served in a war, working as an interrogator who used special technology to retrieve memories from people.

The idea for Reminiscence came to Joy during a crossroads in her life, when, following the death of her grandfather, she returned to the small town of Slaithwaite in England to help with the arrangements. The home featured a plaque that displayed the name of the house, which happened to be a woman’s name.
“As a kid, that always was such a great fascination for me. What does this name mean and where did it come from?” Joy recalled.

Her grandfather always said it was just a nice name. But after his death, among his papers, Joy found an old photograph of a beautiful woman. On the back was the name of the grandparents’ home. Joy was struck by what a strong impression this woman must have made on her late grandfather, who never mentioned her.
“It made me start thinking about memory and our lives in general and the moments that pass by and disappear … that meant something, that changed us,” said Joy. “And how nice it would be to be able to go back to those memories, fully, for a moment. To live that life and feel the way he felt when you experienced them.”

That thought came while she was pregnant with her first child with her husband and fellow Westworld creator Jonathan Nolan. Joy finished penning the script soon after giving birth, and recognized despite her being tired from late nights taking care of her daughter, these were moments that she’d treasure.

“I thought, ‘I wish I could bottle this,’” she recalled. “I would know, as exhausted as I was, this was a magical moment. More meaningful than college graduation or awards or fancy dates people memorialize. It’s those small moments that mean everything. That gave me an idea of how much of life that we value is in those small moments.”

Years after conceiving of the idea, the film will hit theaters and HBO Max Aug. 20.

Jackman noted that serving in the war has left his character “quite broken and disengaged.”

His life is upended when meets Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), a woman who asks him to retrieve a memory of where she put her keys. It’s a job that ends up sending him in directions he never expected after she disappears.

Said Jackman: “He goes on this great odyssey through the darkest places of the world in Miami.”

Watch the full trailer below.

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