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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