Film Review: 'Shattered Memories'
Elizabeth Bogush must unravel a night she can't remember and a web of treachery in this well-structed, whodunnit mystery.
High school guidance counselor Holly Dewitt (Elizabeth Bogush) wakes up to a nightmare when she finds herself in bed next to a dead man, her hands covered in blood. Panicked and with no memory of what happened the previous night, Holly cleans herself up and flees the scene. As Holly struggles with the implication that she committed a murder she can't remember, we learn the identity of the dead man she woke up with: her extra-marital lover Ray (Brad Schmidt).
Desperate to prove she isn't a murderer, Holly works to unravel the events of the ill-fated night to uncover what happened. Her search leads her to uncover numerous secrets involving the friends and neighbors she once trusted, including her estranged husband Glenn (Philip Boyd) and her own sisters Joanna and Lois (Sarah Lind and Victoria Barabas). With everyone she knows having something to hide, will Holly find the truth before her indiscretion costs her everything?
Shattered Memories starts on a strong note by throwing the audience right into the action, with Holly waking up in bed next to her dead lover and kickstarting the film's well-crafted mystery. With Holly's memory faulty and the word of those involved in the night leading up to the murder being unreliable, Shattered Memories uses its concept to great suspense building effect. Hardly any of the film's characters are without suspicious elements to them, leaving the audience pondering which of them could be responsible for the crime, with the possibilities being numerous. None of the suspects feeling like lazily thrown-in red herrings, Shattered Memories is the type of mystery that will have you guessing for the culprit until the riveting climax.
The mystery is strengthened by a strong cast, with all the suspects playing their characters with just enough ambiguity to where you can believe that they might be responsible. Elizabeth Bogush is strong and faceted as Holly, keeping her character in a superposition where you maintain an understanding of Holly even as you realize her morally questionable actions and ponder if she's truly innocent as she believes herself to be.
Sarah Lind and Victoria Barabas are similarly strong as Holly's sisters, with Barabas, in particular, throwing herself into the spectacularly haughty Lois. Lois also has a few moments when she becomes a likable character, if simply because you'll find yourself not blaming her for being sick of the drama and secrets surrounding her. Mark Famiglietti is entertaining as the charming but quietly resentful Lyle, and the performer playing the film's villain (who I will not spoil) is a dramatic blast to watch once their true colors are exposed.
WARNING: Spoilers Below
Philip Boyd gives, perhaps, the most emotionally impactful performance, with Glenn (thankfully) being immensely more sympathetic than his character from Deadly Assistant. While the film seems to be setting Glenn up to be the typical overworking and neglectful husband so as to make Holly's infidelity sympathetic, Shattered Memories instead makes it clear that Glenn's outrage at Holly's affair is, despite his faults, perfectly warranted. While the film still paints Holly's affair as a mistake she regrets, it makes certain that her indiscretion is addressed as the hurtful and unjustifiable act it is. It's a much welcome twist to the double standard of female adulterers more times than not being portrayed in a less negative light as that of their male counterparts.
Shattered Memories is also unique for its ultimate conclusion, as even though the killer has been defeated, the consequences of Holly's actions and the various revelations her investigating unearthed are still lingering by the time the credits roll. Most notably, there isn't a reconciliation between Holly and Glenn after he storms out on her. In another instance of subverting a Lifetime-ian trope, Shattered Memories ends with Holly having to face the fallout from her poor decisions, rather than have everything work out for her by virtue of defeating the villain and being the main protagonist. It's another wise decision that brings another dose of surprise to Shattered Memories.
Brad Schmidt appears as the ill-fated lover Ray, and delivers some strong scenes during the flashbacks he's present in that make him sympathetic, and his inevitable death tragic. But as a whole, he and Bogush aren't given much screen time together, making their illicit relationship feel rushed and lack the emotion needed to go along with the heartfelt flashbacks. The villain also suffers from a case of muddled motivations, with the film ultimately giving them a cliched motivation as opposed to the more original (and interesting) motive that was built up for them. And as strong as Bogush's performance is, Holly is something of a divisive character who may put some viewers off with her morally objectionable actions throughout the film.
But as a whole, Shattered Memories stands up as a well-acted and excellently constructed mystery, making for an enjoyable viewing experience for any mystery buff. Combine that with a premise ripe with drama, and you have a film that is sure to entertain as both a murder mystery and a Lifetime-ian thriller.
Score: 8 out of 10 cowboy hats.