While not a film that will become a cult classic, “I Remember You” is an above average exercise in the creation of tension through atmosphere. The thriller, from Icelandic writer/director Oskar Thor Axelsson, utilizes the bleakness of the location to create some wonderful chills with a slow burn motif. Things move at a crawl for characters starting over in the frigid city, or attempting to rebuild their lives through the renovation of an abandoned house on a deserted shoreline. While there are many things to like about his film, there are some problematic elements that can’t be glossed over.
The performances are very strong and convincing throughout the film, but the motivations from the source material is very convoluted and unclear. One of the central characters, Freyr, is introduced giving a pediatric exam, and then he is introduced as the hospital psychiatrist (a title that is repeated through the film), but acts more like a homicide detective, and coroner. He is first on the scene when a few corpses pile up. It is also confusing that his closest working relationship is with a female detective, or maybe she is a psychologist. It isn’t a mix-up in the translation either, as someone asks him what his reaction, as a psychiatrist would be to one of his actions, clarifying his position.
With all of the overlapping job responsibilities, Freyr is also a bereaved father. He had a son go missing three years prior, and a marriage that did not survive the loss. Having no hope for the survival of his child, the depression and grief over not knowing his son’s fate have consumed his life. This story loosely parallels that of a boy who was picked on also vanished 60 years earlier, and who is connected to the deaths of elderly people by an old school picture that has crosses over the faces of the deceased. The supernatural element revealed as the mystery of the missing boys unravels further complicates an already convoluted storyline, and feels like movies that have been made before.
The film's subplot involves a couple and their friend moving into an abandoned country home to rebuild it, but is confronted by the home’s sinister past. This is most interesting chapter of the film’s Horror narrative, and comes with a satisfying conclusion that elevates it above being just another chapter in the “house with a dark secrets” genre. The film also finds its emotional core with Katrin in this subplot. She has also lost a child whose memory haunts her. The house provided some decent scares, and the mythology was interesting enough to hold my attention through the entirety of the film.
The cinematography, and atmosphere of the film definitely give it enough merit to deserve being imported into the United States. I wouldn’t recommend running out to the theaters to see it, but it is better than most horror/thriller movies making their way to streaming platforms. For it’s atmosphere, location, and a few scattered scares, it is a successful film. Despite the shortcomings of the plot, I still needed to see how the story would end. It is worth the subtitles, but probably not a second viewing. C+