Written by François Archambault and director Éric Tessier, the Canadian drama You Will Remember Me is the bittersweet story of the progressive dementia of a renowned college professor named Edouard (Remy Girard) in Quebec. Edouard is accustomed to the limelight, but his illness has begun to erode his ability to function. As he retreats from public life, his increasingly mercurial reactions to memory loss leave his long-suffering wife Madeleine (France Castel) at her wit’s end.
Madeleine hands Edouard off to their daughter, Isabella (Julie Le Breton), who is ill-prepared for this surprise. On impulse, Isabella’s well-meaning boyfriend Patrick (David Boutin) offers to take care of Edouard, but it quickly becomes clear this is impractical for him as well. So, he ends up hiring his reluctant but financially distressed daughter. Bérénice (Karelle Tremblay) initially only stays with Edouard because she’s being paid and takes great offense at his arrogant opinions of her generation, specifically their relationship to technology and social media. He’s the oldest of old-school, and though he can recite verbatim his lectures written decades ago, he has trouble connecting with the modern world. When he can remember the past, he prefers to ponder better days. His brightest memories are of the early days with his wife.
At first, the generation gap and his dementia make for rocky interactions between the two, but they soon achieve a sort of detente. In talking about his life, Edouard tells of his other daughter, Nathalie, who committed suicide when she was 19. The tragedy of Edouard’s dementia is further deepened by his occasionally becoming confused and not remembering that Nathalie’s been gone for years. Then, one day the oddball pair come across a box of Nathalie’s old things, and Bérénice puts on the late woman’s favorite sweater. This convinces Edouard that Nathalie is alive, and Bérénice plays along because it makes him so happy.
“…convinces Edouard that Nathalie is alive, and Bérénice plays along because it makes him so happy.”
You Will Remember Me is populated with realistic characters. None of them are particularly noble examples of humanity, and yet nor are they bad people either. Their various flaws and bad behavior toward each other make for a high degree of authenticity. Bérénice helps Edouard share his thoughtful insights on the nature of identity and what it means to have one’s entire personality slowly dissolved. Dementia is a common enough ailment that it’s something we can all reasonably fear, so this hits home. She turns out to be the most compassionate person in the family, caring deeply for Edouard as he fades and helping him express his thoughts as he loses the golden moments of his past to what he calls the hell of an “eternal present.”
The irony explored here is that social media tends to create a similar induced short-term memory loss and a cloud of a narcissistic, eternal digital present-tense. There is too much information to digest, and the next stimulus is always incoming. This hypnotic state perversely results in people not being actually present in the real world around them. Despite her youth, Bérénice shows the most profound emotional intelligence and helps steer Edouard peacefully toward his inevitable death. All of the performances are high quality, but top honors must go to Girard and Tremblay for vividly painting their characters and the unconventional relationship at the center of the film.
You Will Remember Me is terrifying, horrifying, and heart-warming, and Tessier navigates this emotional drama elegantly. By the end, he has taken the viewer on a thought-provoking journey as well as a profoundly emotional meditation on life.
"…Tessier navigates this emotional drama elegantly."