So I was fully prepared as I settled down to watch Remember Me, a romantic drama that the Twilight hottie seemed to have made just for his swooning fans, a conclusion I came to based on posters and movie stills. Dishevelled hair? Check. Angsty glances? Check. A sullen co-star? Check.
What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the respectful silence that followed the film’s conclusion, the hushed murmuring as people filed out, and my own profound melancholy for hours afterwards.
Remember Me is a deeply sad movie, with a constant specter of death heightened by a final, shocking revelation. It’s a rather good one too, with affecting performances, a quietly simmering romance and a resounding message about the fleeting beauty of simply being alive, against a grimly atmospheric New York City backdrop.
The films opens with a little girl witnessing the murder of her mother at a subway, before being carried away by her cop father (Chris Cooper). A decade later, another fractured family huddle around a gravestone. The circumstances of the young man’s death unfold as we get to know his younger, rebellious and possibly suicidal brother Tyler (Robert Pattinson), who has a tenuous relationship with his workaholic father Charles (Pierce Brosnan) and knack of getting into trouble.
One day he clashes violently with Neil, a police officer (Cooper, how did you guess?), who has a pretty daughter (Emilie de Ravin) at New York University, where Tyler audits classes. What begins as a petty bet transforms into a passionate affair, as two damaged souls rock each other’s worlds forever.
In New Moon, Pattinson was going through the motions, in tune with the rest of the film. The Brit and his affected American accent are far more comfortable in Remember Me, and he really gets underneath the skin of Tyler, the film’s emotional center, fleshing him out as a compelling, sympathetic character full of anger and sadness.
Tyler tries his best to take care of the people around him, especially his bright but socially outcast younger sister Caroline (brilliantly played by Ruby Jerins), although his attempts to do so can manifest in a destructive fashion. The jury’s still out on whether R-Patz can do more than these brooding Romeo roles, but he certainly makes them his own, and each rendition unique.
Pattinson has an effortless chemistry with de Ravin, whose sweetly caustic Ally complements Tyler. Some parts of her characterization are a bit cutesy – like her desire to eat dessert before dinner in case she dies – but de Ravin makes up for it with details that make Ally real, like a small smile showing the tip of her delight when she gains Caroline’s acceptance or a moment of wondering what to say to her father when she comes home the morning after instead of the night before.
Brosnan and Cooper are both well cast as the fathers, each dealing with their tragedy differently, the former with detachment and the latter with constant invasion of his daughter’s privacy.
The former James Bond is especially memorable – when he finally outwardly reveals anguish was when I felt the most devastated too – one can hope that Pattinson follows in his footsteps as proving himself to be far more than just a one-note pretty boy. Lena Olin, who would have made a deliciously naughty Bond Girl back in the day, contrasts effectively with Charles as Tyler’s more openly loving mother Diane, who has dealt with her grief better than either father or son.
With their shared past of loss and resulting dysfunctional relationships with their fathers, it is logical that Ally and Tyler would come together, which is why it’s a shame that there is such a cheesy premise – the bet – that sets their love in motion.
The writers could have told at least an equally effective story without the contrivance, which is best left to the likes of She’s All That. Tate Ellington’s Aidan, seems to exist entirely for the premise’s sake, and to make his room-mate Tyler seem like less of a jerk for going along with it. However, Pattinson does execute the necessary scenes with ambiguity, and once the cat is out of the bag, it’s dealt with fairly quickly.
Thankfully, a potentially disastrous aspect of the film was handled much more successfully: The twist ending. My definition of a good twist is if a film would work without it, if it is plausible, and if it adds something significant to the whole – Remember Me gets full marks, at once avoiding emotional manipulation and drawing all the film’s elements together even more deeply and effectively.
Verdict: Poignant exploration of love, life and death that will satisfy more than just the hardcore R-Patz fans.