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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Remember Me (review)

Unvarnished Romance

I was resigned to dragging out some lazy, easy Twilight dissing in response to Remember Me, maybe something about it “sucking,” or perhaps I could have called it “vampirically pallid.” Because that’s certainly how it was looking, from the outside. I wouldn’t have enjoyed that, honestly, because while sometimes it’s fun to rag on bad actors and the bad movies they make, I had been steadfastly clinging to a notion that, despite most evidence till that moment to the contrary (and yes, I’ve seen nearly everything he’s done), Robert Pattinson holds some promise. And it was making me angry to see his nominal success with those terrible teen vampire movies seeming to lead him away from opportunities to prove this notion to me. Leading him to, it seemed, a crassly opportunistic attempt to further cash in on Pattinson’s status as go-to dreamboat for attracting the squealing-hormonal-adolescent audience.

Or, as Remember Me began unspooling, I saw that perhaps some reference to emotional vampirism would be required, because there appears to be huge potential, from the opening scene, for tragedy porn. Because, as we learn in that opening scene, one half of our pair of cinematic lovers here watched her mother get murdered when she was a child, and soon enough we learn that the other half lost his brother to suicide and is haunted by that. Oh, the tears and the gnashing of teeth and the rending of clothing that would ensue!

But it doesn’t. Remember Me turns out to be quietly charming and coarsely handsome, a sensitively observed story about young people in love seen through a keen eye for the unglamorous side of New York City that we don’t often see on film these days. (If Martin Scorsese had made this movie in 1977, it might look like this, splendidly sated with the dirty, cluttered, human city.) Its tale skips over all the clichés, except when it touches lightly upon them in order to gently laugh them away. So we have Aidan (Tate Ellington), the best friend and roommate of our hero, Tyler Hawkins (Pattinson: Little Ashes, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), snarking in a half-joking, half-serious way about Tyler’s “brooding” and the “poetic crap” that renders him so attractive to women (it works as sly commentary on Pattinson’s Twilight appeal, too), which isn’t at all what draws in Ally (Emilie de Ravin: Lost, Public Enemies), his fellow student at NYU: she’s all but ready to dismiss him entirely before reluctantly agreeing to a date because, well, why not? He’s cute and funny and, well, why not?

Tyler has an ulterior motive, egged on by Aidan, for asking her out — it’s something to do with her cop father (Chris Cooper: Where the Wild Things Are, Married Life) — and though that will inevitably out itself once Tyler and Ally have actually fallen deeply love, newcomer Will Fetters’ screenplay manages to keep it feeling fresh even when it does come to pass. Director Allen Coulter avoids all sense of the shiny or the glossy or the phony with the romance: where most films about young love somehow manage to feel neither romantic nor sexy, Pattinson and de Ravin are so genuine that I fell in love with them as a couple. They’re sweetly adorable, never annoying or cloying. (I wish Coulter had reined in Pattinson’s one scene of unfortunate histrionics, had had the actor underplay instead of go big, because the rest of the film demonstrates how effective an actor and how appealing a screen presence he can be.)

And there’s plenty more that’s entirely novel and delivered with just the right blend of airiness and earnestness, like Tyler’s relationship with his 11-year-old sister, Caroline (Ruby Jerins), and their jointly strained relationship with their wealthy lawyer father (Pierce Brosnan: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Mamma Mia!), which appears to be what drove Tyler away from the family and into his pretense of life as a poor student. Pattinson and Jerins together are lovely to watch.

The only thing about Remember Me that gives me pause is where it takes Tyler and Ally’s relationship. If the film really insisted that it had to go there, then how it gets there is probably done as well as it could be: it’s hinted at just right, neither giving itself away too early nor holding it a great secret for too long, and it’s not overplayed once it gets there. I’m just not sure the movie needed to go there. I understand the point it’s making once it’s there, but it might have made the same point in a less loaded way. Of course, the loadedness of its point is part of its point, too…

I’m not sure if, ultimately, Remember Me works, then, because of how it ends. But I respect Fetters and Coulter for trying it, and for being so authentic in how they get there.

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Remember Me (2010)
US/Can release: Mar 12 2010
UK/Ire release: Apr 2 2010

MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language and smoking
BBFC: rated 12 (contains infrequent strong language, moderate sex and violence, and smoking)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Kim

    Nice balanced review. I’ll definitely check it out.

  • Lisa

    From what I’ve read about the ending this is totally tragedy porn it sounds completely crass

  • jake

    Sounds totally crap. It will probably bomb.

  • Alli

    It won’t bomb because of the Twilight fans. I’ve heard a good bit about the ending, and I’m surprised it didn’t irritate you more. A lot of critics have been so bothered by the ending, that it ruined the entire experience for them.

    Quick question, for your showing, did they tell you what year it was at the start of the film? It seems some early versions of the film tells you at the beginning, and others don’t. I just wonder if that has an effect on people’s opinion of the ending or not.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, we know what year it happens in.

  • Alli

    Ok, because in one review I read, the critic said some screenings had a title card in the beginning of the film that told you what year it was, but his didn’t. Consequently, he suggested it was the worst ending in cinema history.

  • Puchu

    I really appreciate this review a lot. You are honest in admitting your biases before you went in to watch the movie and yet you have been able to keep those aside and review the movie sincerely and illustrate both its good and bad points.

    Reading your review I understand that the movie and the performances are not brilliant, but neither are they as bad as some other “professional” reviewers (who cannot ignore their prejudices unfortunately) have made them out to be.

    Thanks a lot for this professional and balanced review.

  • Diane

    [SPOILER ALERT — added by maj. PLEASE do not reveal anything about the end of this movie without a warning!]

    I saw the movie and knew what I was getting into beforehand, having read the script last year. I think that they handled the subject as nicely as they could and didn’t really dwell too much on the 9-11 aspect. The various relationships between characters were fleshed out and realistic. I think that there is an actor there under the vampire teen idol and we have better things to look forward to from Robert Pattinson.

  • MaryAnn

    Sounds totally crap. It will probably bomb.

    I’m curious, jake: What “sounds totally crap” about it? Why do you think it will bomb?

  • [SPOILER ALERT — added by maj. PLEASE do not reveal anything about the end of this movie without a warning!]

    Well, the fact that everyone is making a fuss about what year it takes place in, the fact that it takes place in NYC and the fact that it isn’t a period piece
    kinda gives away a big hint to most people.

  • crayoneater

    Thank you for a balanced, thoughtful review.
    The movie’s ending, characters, storyline, and music all stay with you for days afterwards… if you take the chance to see it. It seems impossible to market except by word-of-mouth. It’s so depressing that the multiplexes are dominated by over-produced effect-laden crap while this gem will disappear.

  • Lorin

    *** SPOILIERS ***

    Well, I went in knowing next to nothing about this film. I’m in the industry and see almost EVERYTHING (so I’m not a casual filmgoer). I do NOT recall seeing a reference to the date at the beginning, but I suppose I could be wrong. I remember when Tyler mentions his brother’s age when he died, he tells in what year, so I immediately thought, “Gee, this script must’ve been written a few years ago…!” When the END came, it was shocking yet inevitable. Inevitable BECAUSE it (the setting of the office/building/location) symbolized the Patriarch’s greed and preoccupation for Success; the son’s deadline of choice approaching (he’s next in line) as to his life’s path; the Father, having made the unusual yet enlightened decision to be with his daughter THAT DAY; leaving the son on a collision-course with the tectonic shift of “Civilization As We Knew It” that then occurred. Devastating. Overall, a truly emotionally engaging movie. Loved it.

  • it definately told you the year….
    the year the woman died was 1991, stated clearly. It then said “10 years later” also very clearly.
    1991 + 10 years = 2001.

  • msvampire78

    Thought this movie actually showed that the actor is about the actual acting and not the pretty boy looks.
    I heard that the ending was stunning and was totally caught off gaurd, having thought that the character would commit suicide like the brother.
    A great film which deserves to be noticed..

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