11:58 PM 03/20/2011 by Nahno McLein, Upcoming Critic
This romantic drama pictures two lamenting families, focusing on a boy-meets-girl story and flashing through a series of disputes which in the end resolve in the cleverly cued tragedy of New York’s darkest moment.
Summit Entertainment has transformed the grave tragedy surrounding the 9/11 happenings and created a melancholic, timeless movie. Its strategy is to employ new and promising talent and here the established TV-series director Allen Coulter and first-time writer Will Fetters assert themselves by depicting mundane, but relatable, humorous characters with their individual troubles and personal ways of dealing with loss. Different from United 93 (2006), where the attacks on the US are central to the story as it revolves around the events inside of the hijacked plane, and World Trade Center (2006), this story nine years after the historical event solely conveys the devastating experience of two individual New Yorker families.
Ally (Emily de Ravin), after losing her mother, plays housewife for her overprotective sergeant-dad, not engaging much with life. Tyler (Robert Pattinson) first meets Ally in a politics course at University, which he attends without commitment while stacking library books in his free-time. After being put in jail by Ally’s father (Chris Cooper), Adrian (Tate Ellington), who is Tyler’s gangly, but protein-shake slurping flatmate, coincidentally sees Ally with her father and convinces him to go out with her. Eventually he is forced to confess his connection to him. Simultaneously, Tyler struggles with his upper class-businessman father (Pierce Brosnan) and his older brother’s suicide. Resolving these issues coincides with an unusual setup of the character’s whereabouts when the twin towers are hit by the planes.
Robert Pattinson surprises with a much more versatile acting style than previously seen in his role as the troubled vampire of the Twilight success-franchise. He portrays Tyler’s depth by thoroughly developing the initially lost, self-pitiful and nicotine addicted persona. His intelligent and responsible older brother figure becomes stronger in the course of events, as he evolves from the angry and bitter son, fearing to end up like his brother. Unfortunately, Tyler seems too perfect with his incessant selfless actions and is similar to the Jordan Sparks’ main characters, for example in The Last Song. His negative traits are downplayed; even when he deceptively tracks the sergeant’s daughter, it is conveyed to be Adrian’s mischief. Pierce Brosnan, after his discourse in the humorous Mamma Mia, plays the stern father well. With his stark features that earned him respect in the Bond-series, he is suitable for a character that treats his family like a business, which may have caused losing a son.
The 11-year-old, artistic, baby sister Caroline, starred by Ruby Jerins (Law & Order) in her first bigger film role, resembles the intelligent girl from 500 Days of Summer. In the run-along plot she usually stands up to her older brother, until she steps into the centre of the story after a classmate assault, uniting the disagreeing characters under one roof. Ally is also wonderfully played by de Ravin, who we know from the Lost series. Her portrayal of the determined, but reserved sergeant’s daughter is convincing. The fluctuating feelings tear her between the allegiance to her father and the newly found passion for Tyler’s family, which makes her a realistic character that one can engage with and at the same time relate to. Her unanticipated behaviour furthers the dramatic realism without an over-the-top performance.
Remember Me scores with its down-to-earth, somewhat mad and snippy lines, especially from Adrian, who provably claims to have slept with all nations, even an Eskimo librarian. Puns triggered by the into-the-day, clumsy attitude of Adrian counter the seriousness of the other characters and brings out an enjoyable quality while the characters are established realistically with multiple-qualities. Tyler’s original, self-conscious chat-up-line, including asking Ally to take part in a survey about his “assoholic” flatmate, is his approach to overcome his seclusion. Ally brings out his funny side and gets drawn into Tyler and Adrian’s archetypal student life, which is wonderfully shown in the mise-en-scene of their flat. The ups and downs of their relationship is surrounded by various side stories that create a multi-dimensional, believable world.
Ally also introduces the alternative idea of having dessert prior to the meal due to her fear of improbable events, which catalyses the major theme of coping with fate and chance. The film plays with coincidences in a cunning way and one naturally questions the probability of events and whether fate really has an impact at all. Ally needs ten years to let someone come close to her, but with Tyler she is able to dismiss the symbolic dessert when enjoying an unusually easy-going dinner with Tyler’s father, even though Tyler in his pubertal ignorance challenges his shamelessly tardy dad.
Told through flashes and strictly chronologically, Remember Me pretends to provide a natural viewing experience a là classical Hollywood. However, its artistic concealing of significant details by extracting the rule-of-three and placing coherent information separately provides several platforms of enjoyment. It certainly entertains to assemble the symbolic age relations (Ally is 11 when her mother dies and now Caroline is 11; Michael died with 22 and now it’s Tyler’s 22nd birthday). The heavy dialogue is similarly engaging, as are the numerous meanings; though some implications are hard to grasp or exaggerated, for instance when the secretary says “What a day” just before the attack. Overall this serendipity adds to the explorative and rational storyline.
The context of the 9/11 attacks was deliberately excluded from the film’s advertisements, which focussed on the issue of overcoming loss that creates the foundation of Ally and Tyler’s relationship. Contrarily, the film in effect uses their relationship to immerse into character’s that were affected by the terror attack. This is stunningly progressed throughout the film by planting the themes of coincidence and loss, where barely recognizable references to the 9/11 events are depicted as in the visually over-emphasized twin towers in the starting sequence. On a closer observation, Remember Me provides more closure about the craftily inserted details: place-relations when seeing the twin towers in windows when Tyler walks to his father’s office, plus the downtown café he and his brother used to visit; time-relations with a trip to the beach on Labour Day or the cinema showing of Summit’s own film American Pie that came out in 2001.
Marcelo Zarvos (known from smaller Hollywood productions like Hollywoodland) enlivens the tragic story with his musical score, catching your emotional side right from the beginning. His melancholy orchestral theme sets up a prevailing mood through its high-pitched rhythmical repetition. The ambient, off-screen noise of New York’s busy streets is a constant reminder of the realistic everyday setting despite the synchronous, plaintive sound that is pulling through the narrative. His music remarkably anticipates events and supports the strong, immersive story components, especially when it is elevated to the sole sound source. Close to the end, when the narrative reaches a relieved and resolved state, Zarvos’ emotive sound effects pervade a contradicting and thus foreboding outlook as an overwhelming intro to the climax. The dominant, loud street sounds and chattering voices as a substitute for the actual plane crash has a strong impact as well, after emphasizing the twin towers in a stunning zooming out shot.
Inventive is the input of cinematographer Jonathan Freeman (Hollywoodland) and Editor Andrew Mondshein (known from The Sixth Sense 1999). For most of the screen-time Freeman keeps an objective deep focus in a distanced frame, which – in addition to the recurring through-frame shots –evokes the pragmatic impression of watching an everyday scene by peeping through various openings. Two particularly beautiful symmetrical shots inside of the World Trade Center office glorify the building, which is not surprising with the extensive input that New York situated offices and studios had in making Remember Me. This dramatizes the nostalgia surrounding the twin towers, which is slightly cheesy. Mondshein heightens dramatic moments well by switching through scenes and perspectives with a slow left pan and playing on the staged frames. This gives the impression of slow motion and amplifies the grim reality, whereas true slow motion during the climax transpires the devastation and the character’s feelings very effectively by concentrating on the families’ reactions instead of images of the attack.
Full closure is not exactly what you get: the role of the man on the train watching Ally, Tyler and Adrian remains unexplained. Nevertheless, this is an adventure for an explorative viewer, experiencing excitement that quickly resolves into tragic realization. One immerses into the story so well that the impact of the realization brings forward old, potentially buried memories while the devastating, emotive on-screen images carry its own weight. The majority of the film is entertaining and tells a love-story with its own appeal. Due to the historical references the ending cannot be taken light-heartedly. The serious and realistic account of this fateful day with its effective depiction of the families’ personal experiences is a recommendable true-to-life movie. Remember Me is a skilfully handled memorial of the happenings and as the title suggests, something we should not forget.
Remember Me (2010)
Production: Summit Entertainment, Underground Film Prods.
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Lena Olin, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins, Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper
Director: Allen Coulter
Screenwriter: Will Fetters
Producers: Nicholas Osborne, Trevor Engelson
Executive producers: Carol Cuddy, Robert Pattinson
Director of photography: Jonathan Freeman
Production designer: Scott P. Murphy
Music: Marcelo Zarvos
Costume designer: Susan Lyall
Editor: Andrew Mondshein
Rated PG-13, 113 minutes