“Embers” takes place in the year 2032, nine years after a neurological epidemic caused everyone, who is not quarantined, to forget their memory after each sleep. The movie tells of five different stories about those who have been impacted by the illness.
At the start of the film, a woman and a man wake up in a dark, abandoned home, questioning who the other is.
“Maybe we’re family. Maybe I’m your brother,” he says. “Maybe we’re married,” she responds.
They know they must be connected in some way as they are both wearing a blue ribbon signifying they’re together. They give each other names -- Ben and Jenny -- and begin finding a safer place to stay and fall in love. You’re left hoping that the soulmates stay together forever without losing each other, despite their illness.
Next we’re introduced to a small boy who doesn’t have a family. Sadly, he roams around the city’s rubble until someone decides to take care of him for the day. Since he was born into the epidemic, he never got the opportunity to learn how to speak. Not being able to talk or communicate, he floats from one lost soul to another. The viewer is waiting for the young boy to find someone to call family, but grieve when they come to the conclusion that it may never happen.
A professor escapes to a cottage out in the woods in an attempt to get away from the epidemic. He keeps a daily journal and rereads his notes and scientific books to remember what the day before brought him. Does he actually retain his memory, or does he rely on books, the viewer is kept pondering. Watching the man struggle to recall his memory makes the viewer root for his wellness, hoping he was never actually exposed to the epidemic.
Some people may be dangerous and destructive without truly trying to be. The viewers are shown a man, without a name, who terrorizes anything and everyone he encounters. Who happens to be extremely unlikable at the beginning of the movie. He knocks people over the head just for the heck of it, steals other people’s food and smashes in the windows of cars. You’re left to wonder, if he had remembered that he was terrorizing his surroundings would he continue to be so chaotic? He does this everyday, forgetting that he has acted out in this way for the past nine years, making the viewer sympathize for the man; which leads me to the biggest question I had about the movie:
Does each person keep a part of his or her former soul, though they let go of past memories?
The two lovers knew they were meant to be together, though they would wake up every morning and forget who they were. The unruly young man would destroy everything in sight, everyday, though he had no recollection of doing it the previous day. And the professor would study his notes and books each day out of habit to collect his former memories.
It was a brilliant move on Charles Spano’s and Claire Carré’s part to keep multiple perspectives of the forgotten dystopian world. It makes the viewer wonder how they would act if this were a real life crisis. As a viewer, you’re immersed into these character’s lives, hoping for them to live the next day in happiness, realizing they’ve gained their memory back. The actors are honest and believable and as the viewer, you are sent on an emotional journey, with each character, anticipating the end of the epidemic, and hoping to foresee the survival of each one.
My favorite story within the movie is about Miranda, who has been living in a bunker for nine years with nothing but a robotic security system, a cello and her father. Each day brings her the same events. She wakes up and answers questions such as her place of birth, date of birth, and name to a robotic system that tested her memory loss. Then she would eat playdough-like food, listen to music, play the cello for her father (which, presumably her mother played), and go to sleep. She has the need for freedom --to get away from the agonizing day-by-day routine she is forced to live for the rest of her life.
Throughout the whole movie, I kept wondering, would I choose to relive the same day, every day, in a bunker? Gaining no new memories or experiences and living like a robot my entire life? Or would I choose to expose myself to the epidemic? To forget my memories every time I woke up in the morning, but lived a brand new day until I died? After watching the movie, you are left with a lot of unanswered questions that causes the viewer to dive further into thought about the memories we keep, life changing decisions, and a silent fear of an epidemic of this nature becoming a reality.