Amnesia: The James Brighton Enigma (2005)
Director: Denis Langlois
Writers: Bertrand Lachance, Denis Langlois
Language: English, French
Duration: 90 min
Stars: Dusan Dukic, Tyler Hall, Derek Lebrero
Inspired by real events, drama “Amnesia: The James Brighton Enigma” ekes middling results from a fascinating storyline. Tale of a young gay man trying to reconstruct his identity after being left naked and beaten in a Montreal parking lot offers an intriguing mystery.
Handsome, doleful-eyed, mid-20s protag (Dusan Dukic) is seen held at knifepoint by young louts in a speeding car. He is stripped, pummeled and left unconscious.
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Disoriented, he awakes to find clothes scattered nearby, and istaken by police to a hospital where he spends more than a month in a psych ward under the care of a sympathetic doctor (Louise Laprade). Diagnosed with disassociative amnesia, he remembers nothing of his prior life. A few dim apparent recalls, including his name, James Brighton, lead authorities nowhere in identifying him.
“James” now decides he was — or at least now is — gay, and a local community org gets him taken in by linguistics professor Felix (Norman Helms). Felix is romantically attracted by the young man’s vulnerability. The ease with which “James” slips into being a darling of the Montreal gay club scene leads some to suspect he’s no amnesiac victim but an impostor desiring a fresh start.
Belying that negative view is James’ eagerness to be media-interviewed in hopes of being recognized by anyone who knows him. Yet worst suspicions seem confirmed when, after his story is broadcast on a U.S. tabloid-TV show, he is identified — as one Matthew Honeycutt from Tennessee, where he’s wanted for arrest on petty charges. Protag “goes home,” even though he says he still doesn’t recognize hometown or relatives, both knee-deep in Pentecostal Church culture. He does immediately remember the family dog — implying its unconditional love might lay in stark contrast to every other formative relationship.
Increasing flashback nightmares suggest psychiatric instability underlined by a disapproving religious community and tripped into breakdown by homophobic violence. But the unlikelihood that such violence brought no legal consequence robs the tentatively upbeat fade of credibility.
Memory-flashes aside, the chronologically ordered tale is framed by the present-tense inquiry of Montreal criminologist-in-training Sylvie (Karyne Lemieux), who’s decided to write her thesis paper about the “James Brighton” case. This device is OK, but pic needs a stronger cinematic style to convey the protag’s ambiguities. Instead, the film (looking a tad dark and soft in 35mm transfer) is serviceable, but pedestrian.
Puppyish Yugo-born Canadian lead Dukic’s naif performance inadvertently flags “James” as a possible liar before — and after — we should suspect him of being one. Support perfs are solid, with Steven Turpin (who played an amnesiac in 2003 Canuck indie “Saved by the Belles”) vivid in a key late support role.
- Director: Denis Langlois
- Writers:Bertrand LachanceDenis Langlois
- Actors:James Brighton / Matthew HoneycuttDusan DukicLe meneurTyler HallAcolyte #1Derek LebreroAcolyte #2Maurizio TerrazzanoSylvieKaryne LemieuxPolicier à l'hôpitalPhilippe ProvencherRéceptionniste à l'hôpitalClaudine PaquettePréposéNeil De AlbuquerquePatienteEnrica BoucherInfirmièreKarine Lavergne
- Languages:French, English
An American is found naked and amnesiac in a vacant parking lot in Montreal in 1998. He says his name is James Brighton, but the only thing he's sure of is that he's gay. What happened to this young American in search of freedom ? That's what Sylvie, a criminology student, tries to find out.- Written by Les productions Castor & Pollux Inc. [ca]
- Also known as: Amnésie: L'énigme James Brighton (Canada - French title), Amnésie: L'énigme James Brighton (France),
- Rating: (543 votes)