Mark Reviews Movies

REMEMBER ME

3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Allen Coulter

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins, Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Lena Olin

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for violence, sexual content, language and smoking)

Running Time: 1:53

Release Date: 3/12/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 11, 2010

The final minutes of Remember Me put everything that's come before it into a larger context, and it's not the kind of gimmick—and, yes, we shall call it what it is—this material needs.

Until that point, the film exists with the specifics of its characters. They are coping with death, discovering love, standing up for themselves and those they care about, and, as our romantic lead quotes Gandhi, doing things because they are important, even if they seem insignificant.

That is the film's strength, and screenwriter Will Fetters is content with his characters in this realm. Then we are presented with a series of vignettes, leading us directly to a specific time and place, and we are only left asking why. The thematic reasoning is not the issue, as its made perfectly clear in an unnecessary coda to what should be the film's final shot (You'll know it when you see it; it's a pretty effective camera pullback that would signify tragic irony, if not for what follows—all pandering hopefulness). The question is: Why go there in the first place?

Let's back up, though, because I am speaking only of the final five minutes or so of Remember Me. The rest of it, in spite of insignificant importance, carries a lot more weight than the loaded finale.

Here we have Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson), a 21-year-old college student who smokes, drinks, and hooks up with random girls. When asked what his major is, he responds, "I'm undecided." "About what," she asks; "Everything," he says. It's a nice exchange—familiar structure but reflective (importantly insignificant, if we continue the motif).

His father (Pierce Brosnan) is a cold, cold man, a business professional who puts his son on speakerphone in front of his associates. After a while, he finally wishes his boy a happy birthday.

His younger sister (Ruby Jerins) is a talented young artist. He picks her up from school every day. She tells him the other girls pick on her. Tyler knows, and he also knows that their dad hasn't helped much in how she reacts to it, either.

He's a bit of a Holden Caulfield figure, this Tyler—a loner with few friends but a whole lot of perceived enemies. He tries to stop a fight in an alley after a night of drinking and ends up in jail after mouthing off to the cop (Chris Cooper) who had let Tyler and his roommate (Tate Ellington) go free.

The cop has a daughter, Ally (Emilie de Ravin), whose mother was murdered in front of her 10 years ago. She's in one of Tyler's classes, and when the roommate finds this out, he thinks that Tyler dating the girl would be a good way to get back at the cop. Tyler doesn't want to get even, but he does think she's cute. They talk (Their first meeting is resourceful in the way it takes a clever pick-up scenario and shows us what we need to know about her), go out a couple of times, and then dad's over-protective nature kicks into high gear, and soon enough, Ally is living at Tyler's place.

Tyler knows about losing family. His older brother killed himself a few years ago, after failing as a musician and shortly after starting work for dad. There are unresolved issues, as there always are, but Fetters and director Allen Coulter don't point fingers. When dad does wish Tyler a happy birthday, Brosnan reacts with the subtlest change in posture and tone. There's real regret there, and it comes to a head in a fight between the two (in a conference room full of horrified onlookers) in which they both lay their cards out. We see both of their points; it's just a matter of differing perceptions of what's important in a family.

Fetters gives us sympathetic characters, both in how we react to them and how they respond to each other. After returning from the fight with his dad, Ally doesn't ask anything; she knows what has happened without him saying a word. She understands where it's come from, and she replies to his frustration with a touch, a hug.

Even Cooper's father is recognizable, even if the script demands he become a near-villainous figure. He breaks into Tyler's apartment to confront the kid, and Tyler tells him exactly what he doesn't want to hear. What he's done has driven his daughter away. Tyler knows why the father behaves the way he does, and we do, too. The way Tyler presents Ally's father's need to protect causes him to erupt, but we've come to learn that's simply Tyler's way of communicating.

The film is effective for this understanding. It seems to be heading down a redemptive road paved on the characters' growing awareness of each other. Then, those last minutes arrive, and we're left dumbstruck with an egregious miscalculation of misplaced Importance.

How does one, then, handle a film like Remember Me? Fetters' script changes its mind twice in the finale, and the first time, while disorienting and questionable, might have worked if not for the postscript in which it says something else. Until the end, the film works as a look into lives under stress looking for redemption, and for that, it's difficult to write off the whole for a relatively tiny sliver.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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