A pale, distracted young man (Tom Sturridge) limps across a busy road, leaving a wheelie case behind him.
No sooner has he crossed, however, than there’s a shower of glass from a nearby skyscraper. A moment later he’s creamed by a plummeting mass of wires and plastic — his blood pools around him. Sometime later, and now the recipient of an enormous settlement, the man begins experiencing flashes of a life he can no longer quite recall: an old redbrick apartment block; the sound of piano and smell of liver cooking.
Feeling detached from the world around him, a world where one-time friends presume on their former connection for unknown reasons, like needy school friend (Ed Speleers) and the untrustworthy American girl (Cush Jumbo), the man pours his newfound fortune into recreating snippets of the life once lived.
The man quickly becomes a deja vu junkie, obsessed with the most minor details; those few moments of authenticity he’s able to gleam amidst the chaos resonate with crackling static and blissful euphoria. However, what starts as a slightly bizarre hobby – tying cats to rooftops to keep them in place — quickly escalates into full-blown obsession — re-enactments of increasingly dangerous crimes – to the point it’s unclear what is recreation and creation.
Omer Fast’s adaptation of Tom McCarthy’s book draws into focus the theme of fate vs. self-fulfilling prophecy. As the protagonist coldly reduces people to automatons through his wealth, forcing them to act out the same actions over and over, else leaving them frozen in place, so he is a victim of his own compulsion: struggling to pick up a coin from the floor of an underpass, he jerks rhythmically to a didgeridoo accompaniment like a puppet with its strings cut.
By degrees an existential thriller and one man’s personal Synecdoche, New York, Remainder’s title is itself crucially incomplete — a remainder of what, exactly? This much is never conclusively revealed. Though elliptical, the film never quite comes full circle, leaving open a thin sliver that lets light into a sterile situation and with it the possibility of change — or no change; but nevertheless the possibility of something.