I Remember You
by Hope Madden
“Children just don’t disappear in Iceland.”
This line, slyly delivered shortly into co-writer/director Óskar Thór Axelsson’s
film I Remember You, let’s you know that you are not really watching the movie you think you are.
Indeed, the Icelandic thriller weaves two separate stories together using this missing child as the thread.
As the line is delivered, Freyr (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson 0, a psychiatrist, is filling in for a medical doctor at the site of a suicide. An elderly woman hung herself in an old church, writing the word “unclean” on the wall and vandalizing the building before taking her own life.
Though he’s only a fill-in, Freyr begins working with local authorities on the case, which begins as an apparent suicide but quickly turns into something sinister, perhaps supernatural.
Meanwhile, the film spends time with a trio—a man, his wife and her friend—refinishing a would-be bed and breakfast on an isolated Icelandic island.
What does Freyr’s son Benni, who vanished three years ago, have to do with all of it?
To be honest, Axelsson has trouble really clarifying that point. It takes a medium (who also happens to be a lawyer for no reason I can discern) to begin to explain Benni’s connection, but the truth is that these three tales of human misery—the suicide, the DIY trio and the mourning father— are spinning disconnected around us and no amount of spiritual mumbo jumbo can truly bring them all together
Still, I Remember You offers plenty of fine performances. Though Freyr behaves in ways no psychiatrist would (having his ex-wife point that out does little to remedy the problem), Jóhannesson’s caring but distrusting turn gives the film a center of gravity.
The three fixer-uppers (Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir, Thor Kristjansson and Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir) offer the most tender and believable performances, and the ghost story itself sits best with them on that secluded island.
There’s also an effectively foreboding score and the endlessly imposing if beautiful Icelandic backdrop. The biggest issue is that Axelsson, working with Ottó Geir Borg to adapt Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s novel, can’t bring the most intriguing threads to the surface and tie them together.
It’s a movie that refuses to stay with you. The final image is provocative, but even that won’t help you remember I Remember You.