Jon Hamm, Ellen Burstyn and more star in director Mark Pellington’s look at loss

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“Nostalgia” is an effective portrait of lives lived, told through shifting stories that examine the various ways in which we categorize our memories.

John Ortiz, an undervalued character actor who has played roles in everything from “Carlito’s Way” to “Silver Linings Playbook,” is an insurance agent who deals with customer claims. If your house burns down, he’s the one who meets you in the ashes of your home and starts sorting through the process of recovery with you. Ortiz is so good here — there’s a scene where he breaks down the particulars of his job that is probably his best scene ever on film — that you want the movie to stay with him, but the narrative is handed off like a baton to Helen (Ellen Burstyn), who is dealing with the aftermath of a fire.

From the fire, Helen recovers a Ted Williams-signed baseball, which she sells to a Las Vegas autograph collector Will (Jon Hamm), and the film follows his story, and so on. The changing storylines allow co-writer and director Mark Pellington (“The Last Word”) to study recollections and remembrances from all sides, and he’s particularly interested in stuff: The stuff we gather, the stuff we assign meaning to, and what we do with that stuff when it’s time to part with it.

He also brings up a valid point about the young, for whom photos mostly remain stored on phones, protected behind passwords. Young people are taking pictures all day every day, but what happens to those photos after they die when they only exist in the cloud? How do you hold on to something digital?

None of these things are particularly rosy or comfortable to think about. But Pellington’s film presents them in a package that makes it a little bit easier to confront our own feelings about the things we hold dear.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Nostalgia’

GRADE: B

Rated R for some language

Running time: 114 minutes

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