(by Dustin Putman
Portraying brooding teen vampire Edward in 2008's "Twilight" and 2009's "New Moon" has earned Robert Pattinson a rabid female fan base who probably care less about his thespian abilities and more about his hair and porcelain skin. Let's face it—as popular as those pictures are (and I do not wager to understand the popularity of something that sets the women's rights movement back sixty years), they don't require much from Pattinson other than sulky good looks. With any luck, the actor's naysayers will be silenced after they take a gander at his convincing, even magnetic work in "Remember Me," a romantic drama more interested in character nuance than story innovation. Director Allen Coulter (2006's "Hollywoodland") brings little style or technical panache to his gritty filmmaking, allowing the cast to do the talking and trusting that they will be able to carry the proceedings to their somewhat startling conclusion. They do, indeed, but their handle of the material does not stop things from concurrently becoming a bit visually stale. Article continues below
Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson) works at a college library and sits in on classes as he edges his way toward his twenty-second birthday—the very age of his older brother when he took his own life six years prior. Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin) shares a class with Tyler, as well as her own tragedy from the past: she witnessed her mother get gunned down on a Brooklyn subway platform ten years ago. An altercation with Ally's cop father Sgt. Neil Craig (Chris Cooper), a resulting arrest, and the nudging of best friend Aidan (Tate Ellington) lead Tyler to seek out Ally. At first cautious of starting a relationship, Ally soon gives in to her feelings for Tyler, a very possible kindred spirit. As he tries to come to terms with his brother's suicide and the state of his family—hotshot businessman father Charles (Pierce Brosnan) can barely break away from a meeting long enough to listen to 11-year-old daughter Caroline (Ruby Jerins)—Tyler's and Ally's interconnected lives careen toward an outcome neither of them have any way of predicting.
More than just your typical love story aimed at young people—but flawed nonetheless—"Remember Me" is best when it is hitting truthful chords in the rapport between the characters. The way in which Tyler's broken family gets together on the anniversary of his brother's death but can't quite connect as a unit feels real, as do father Charles' preoccupation with work, mother Diane's (Lena Olin) new marriage to Les (Gregory Jbara), and little sis Caroline's feelings of inadequacy about a dad who won't give her the time of day. Tyler—viewed as on a bad path—isn't really so out of control as he is filled with anger and prone to snap actions. His lovely bond with Caroline, reminding of Holden Caulfield's touching relationship with sister Phoebe in J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," is arguably the film's high point. Ruby Jerins (2010's "Shutter Island") is an irresistible find as Caroline, a sensitive child and talented aspiring artist who deserves better than the taunting classmates at school and neglectful father.
The romance between Tyler and Ally begins as a meditated setup on the former's end—Tyler only seeks her out because of her relation to the officer who arrested him—but grows into something more when it becomes clear these two share a common struggle in their lives and can relate to each other all the better because of it. The conflict that inevitably arises, leading to a temporary falling-out, is blown out of proportion in Ally's reaction and could have been easily avoided were Tyler to use more tact. If that doesn't work, their intimacy and playfulness when together does. Emilie de Ravin (2006's "The Hills Have Eyes") is sympathetic and low-key as Ally, but also unassumingly captivating. Her quirks—ordering dessert before the main course, telling the cab driver to not give her any lip when she requests he drive her to Brooklyn (she hasn't rode the subway since her mother's death)—are mildly cutesy, but also helpful in painting a wider portrait of who Ally is and the rituals that bring insight into her past.
Where "Remember Me" ends, it dare not be said, though anyone paying attention should be able to slowly put it together as the characters' lives lead them toward a historical moment in time. Until this point, the picture had been diverting and well-written by Will Fetters, but also kind of bland in plot and mise en scene. The final ten minutes, however, are methodical in the emotional sucker punch they create, offering up revelations about characters and bringing closure to Tyler's complicated feelings toward his father just as his life heads toward a final fateful moment. There is a natural conclusion, culminating in a camera pull-back and reveal, that would have really been powerful. That the film goes on another few minutes and spells things out is an instance where more is surely less. The movie didn't need the epilogue it provides, but isn't destroyed by it, either. Dark though it is—few audience members will be whistling a happy tune afterwards—this finale does carve out a place for the film itself as a more memorable tale of redemption and letting go than it otherwise might have been. As for Robert Pattinson, he is in full command of his leading role and never falters. A strong career beyond vampiric immortality may await this promising actor after all.