While most high profile sci-fi hits tend to favor the whizz-bang over the spare and stripped down, the past few years have presented a sort of renaissance for simpler approaches to the genre, evidenced by Denis Villeneuve’s buzzy but thought-provoking Arrival and Charlie Brooker’s often understated Black Mirror. But one of the best recent contemplative approaches to sci-fi likely missed many viewers during its quiet climb along the festival circuit.
Now making its home on Netflix, Claire Carré’s debut feature Embers is an aching and ambitious gem whose grandiose scale defies its universal central theme. Connecting five seemingly disparate storylines taking place after an unknown plague wipes out humanity’s ability to establish long-term memory, Embers drops the viewer into a world both hauntingly alike and deftly alien to the world of our own, envisioning a technological climate just a few decades removed from our own.
At the center of the film lies a poignant romance between a wandering couple (Jason Ritter and Iva Gocheva), doomed to wake up each morning as strangers, bearing small Memento-esque markers meant to help them learn their love for each other even as their minds remain empty. Other similarly lost members of the future surround them: a scientist (Tucker Smallwood) who is determined to track his slow decay; a young, abandoned boy (Silvan Friedman) wandering without direction through the wild, an aimless man stirred with raw aggression (Love‘s Karl Glusman) but with no understanding of its source, and a young girl (Greta Fernandez) whose high social standing allowed her to remain in containment and away from the memory-killing plague inside the embodiment of a time capsule.
And though the many storylines could coalesce into a feature that’s as fragmentary as it is gorgeous, the film’s elegantly spare score, composed by Kimberly Henninger and Shawn Parke, ties the absent-minded masses together – falling into step with the film’s light, narrative touch while managing somehow to sound like a bit like remembering itself. Crushing in on some of the film’s most stirring scenes while allowing others to play out in haunting silence, for a film about forgetting, Henninger and Parke’s work is nonetheless incredibly memorable.
The composers, a duo to watch out for, have allowed us to debut their full film score. And we invite you to check out the film itself, currently streaming on Netflix and available on iTunes after a theatrical run via Arclight Cinemas completed earlier this summer.
Embers (Music From the Motion Picture) : http://bit.do/Embers-OST
Kindling (Musical Sketches for the Motion Picture Embers) : http://bit.do/Kindling