I’m still processing it.  I loved it. I adored Ruby Jerins, the 11-year-old wonder-girl actress who plays Tyler Hawkins’ (Rob Pattinson) little sister, Caroline.  I thought Emilie de Ravin, who played Aly, Tyler’s love interest, was fiesty, sportive, fun, and tender in all the ways a good woman should be.  I hated how sad the ending was—but thought it was neat how all those tiny little details added up in the end to make it sensible, if not still shocking (I won’t tell you what happened, but let’s just say, I wasn’t expecting them to make a movie with the fact of this event tucked so realistically and emotionally inside the plot).

View in HD (non-embeddable): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMBfTdm9ALk

And, hell yes, I adored Rob.   I’m not going to gush, though–much.  So here’s me, trying to review a work by someone I obviously find attractive and respect a great deal. Don’t expect me to be impartial.  Like Fox News Channel, I’m only going to make a pretense at being “fair and balanced,” since you all know what I’m actually rooting for.

Here’s a not-too-brief, and not-too-spoilery, synopsis:  Tyler Hawkins (Rob Pattinson) is a nearly 22 year-old living in New York who is not, in fact, actually living —at least, not for himself.  Since the suicide of his brother, Michael,  Tyler’s been living for everyone else around him, even fighting their battles, and ignoring his own life (he suffers from guilt for living, we think, maybe).  He’s rather aimless, lost, and “desireless,” as Rob has called him, but he has one focus that does guide his behavior:  he really, really wants to fix his divorced, broken, grieving family, and to make a happier childhood possible for his adorable little sister, precocious 11 year-old Caroline (played by the amazing Ruby Jerins). 

Tyler (Rob) responds to Caroline (Ruby Jerins) as she chastises him for smoking in the kids' area of Central Park. In this outtake not put into the film, Rob pouts, and Ruby laughs.

Tyler lives with his roommate, Aidan (Tate Ellington), who is your typical party-going manwhore who occassionally frets over the fact that Tyler seems depressed in spite of his ability to attract women like cats to cream (I mean, come on, Me-ow!).  One night, in an attempt to get Tyler to come out of his depressive cave, Tyler and Aidan head out to the bar scene, only to find themselves witness to a nasty, unprovoked attack in the street that Tyler, in an act of righteous, self-destructive impulsivity, rushes into to put to rights.  Aidan faithfully comes to help, and the bloody fistfight is broken up by one Sgt. Craig, a tough NYPD cop who throws everyone involved in jail despite the protest of several witnesses who can avow Tyler and Aidan’s innocence. Tyler and Aidan make bail with the help of Tyler’s workaholic Wallstreet-lawyer of a father, with whom Tyler has a strained and emotionally distant relationship. 

Tyler and Aidan (Tate Ellington) discuss beer and women in a moment of male bonding.

Some weeks later, Aidan discovers that Sgt. Craig’s daughter is actually an NYU student in Tyler’s sociology class, and Aidan gleefully tells Tyler that he now has a chance to get back at the jackass cop: Tyler can date his daughter—then dump her.  Tyler is too sensitive a soul to agree to use the girl as a pawn in a petty revenge scheme, but is intrigued by Alyssa Craig’s (Emilie de Ravin’s character’s) wit when he banters with her in a café.  They wind up dating. And they wind up discovering that they’ve both been witness to the worst tragedies a child can have: for Tyler, it is the discovery of his brother’s body after his suicide six years ago;  for Aly, it is watching her mother get murdered on a subway before her very eyes when she was only eleven.    They form an emotional bond that, coupled with their playful natures and obvious physical chemistry, becomes romantic.  Things seem to go well until Aly’s father discovers whom Aly is dating…and Aly finds out that Tyler was originally setting her up for heartbreak. Trusts,  collarbones, and hearts, get broken.

Meantime, Tyler’s little sister undergoes her own social tragedies at school that put Tyler, the ever-attentive elder brother, at vicious odds with their seemingly uncaring, absentee father.  It is only after Tyler stands up for the painful truth of his father’s behavior–and his own mistakes with Aly–that all the brokenness resolves and gains an overwhelmingly wonderful fullness.  And then it takes only one event for that perfection to get shattered again.  

The moral?  Most members of the audience learned the lesson that your family, your lover, and even your capacity to love, are extremely precious, and not to be wasted.  That a life that’s lived entirely for your own pleasure is not ultimately fulfilling unless that pleasure lies in helping others find contentment.  It sounds corny, but the film is so sincere, and the characters so well-grounded in reality, that even grown men were crying in the theatre.  Kid you not. 

But what has me, a recently bereaved person, sitting here writing about it, is the bravery of this little film.  The script is superb; primarily a work of Will Fetters, the script underwent many rounds of revision from Jenny Lumet and Robert Pattinson himself before it reached the stage where it felt real.  At any moment, the tragedies discussed could have turned hokey, if not for the good writing and–yes–some surprisingly stellar acting. Not that I’m surprised by Rob (unlike most of the gaping-mouthed reviewers now raving about him, I’m not shocked because I’ve seen him do some really complex stuff pre-Twilight), but by the entire cast.  

And why was the acting stellar?  Because the actors all portrayed grief as it is:  ugly, difficult, and oftentimes, paralyzingly stupefying. They didn’t try to pretty it up.  But the story balanced the darkness of grief with the natural brightness from occurences of everyday humor, and even the supernaturally sublime moments of intense love.

Tyler:" . . . I love you." Aly, smiling, half asleep: "Good. I'm glad. And I love you, too." Together again at last with Aly (played by one of the luckiest women on earth, Emilie de Ravin), Tyler steals a morning moment before heading to court with his father.

I sound like I’m gushing—but I really don’t feel like I’m exaggerating. I’ll give you examples of some of the moments that had me blinking back tears of laughter, joy, and empathy…

The laughter bits:  Aidan is a hoot, and Tyler’s wry responses to him are better, especially during those realistic moments when Aidan’s humor is interjected in an innappropriate moment. At one point, Aidan shows up wearing very little aside from an Irish flag and a beer bottle and interrupts a romantic moment between Tyler and Aly; Tyler is gracious, but has a good time flinging the now-drunk Aidan’s own words back at him with his witty tongue-in-cheek. When the two roomies boy-fight and rag on eachother at work in the bookstore, it’s macho-ly cute, even when Tyler gets shoved off a ladder (Rob  falls twice in the film, and his colt-legged physical awkwardness lends itself to some great laughs).  Other humorous notes sound between Tyler and his baby sister, Caroline, when he teases her for having a pretentious teacher who goes by “Frauline (something-Frenchie-I-can’t-pronounce)” and launches into a slew of mixed German and French in a hoity-toity tone that borders on Kermit-the-Froggishness. No wonder Caroline quits worrying about the girls in class that pick on her and giggles away with her big, lanky, gorgeous, multilingual brother.

And that right there is what really makes up a great deal of the joyful parts of the film: the wellspriing of good siblingship displayed between Tyler and his ten-years-younger baby sister, Caroline.  They have some fabulous moments of the sort that my brother and I didn’t have until we, like Caroline and Tyler, no longer lived under the same roof.  I’m going to talk about a few, so pardon the SPOILERAGE:

First, a comraderie.  They tease each other, and Caroline nags him to quit smoking (atta girl!  And Rob really should quit). They’ve also been through a lot of family grief together, and they acknowledge it and talk about it. Tyler, although he’s ten years older, recognizes that Caroline is precociously intelligent and has her own unique perspective on the situation, since she is still at home in the nest.  Tyler listens to her anxieties, and even when he has no answers to her troubles, he has her back, even going so far as to openly and aggressively rebuke  his father in the presence of family members–and even his father’s business associates–for being unfeeling towards Caroline,who is at a very tender age and needs attention, quality time, and her father’s ear.

Oh, and did I mention?  Tyler dives in headfirst when Caroline’s in a crisis.  And her crisis is heinous:  Imagine being an eleven year-old girl at an all-girls private school. Now imagine that among all the matching plaid skirts and spoiled brats, you have a premature understanding of the hardness of life, a touch of Aspberger’s Syndrome, and a virtuostic gift for the arts that garners the praise and attention of your teachers–who then launch your artwork at a student exhibition at the Met.  Now imagine how all those other girls at school treat you: like the plague. They detest you to the point that one of those girls invites you to a birthday party under polite-seeming pretenses, and then gets all the girls there to grab scissors and cut off your hair. For an eleven year-old, that’s the equivalent of gang rape because it steals your sense of burgeoning feminity and robs your sense of belonging to the world of females.

You come home in tears, but don’t want to listen to what your mother says about this kind of thing passing.  Then your brother rushes over.  And what does he do?  He pulls out a book he gave you about Greek myths when you were having a bad day a few weeks back (and when he did, he told you that even the Greek gods were spiteful, jealous, and nasty to each other).  But instead of lecturing you, he plops you down on your bed, curls up next to you, and reads to you in a restful tone until your sniffles give way to sleepy yawns and snores and his voice takes on a scratchy, over-used sound.  That’s Tyler and Caroline.

It's not just Tyler and Caroline; It's Rob and Ruby. In a moment when the cameras weren't rolling, Ruby's shoe fell off the bench. Rob rescued it. Paps and fans tittered about how darn cute they were together. Rob later commented that, after acting with Ruby, he suddenly felt like he wanted "to be a father." Ruth controls her hormones and withholds come-hither comments.

But then, Tyler gets to perform what Rob has called “the fantasy of almost every good big brother”: he gets to get back at the prissy little birthday bitch who set his sister up.  Tyler takes Caroline, now scrubbed free of her tears and given a very expensive, modern-looking bob of a haircut to hide the damage, back to school the following week. And he doesn’t drop her off at the curb. He walks with her into the classroom, sets her books down, fusses with her notebooks, and ignores the children’s stares to ask her if she’s going to “be okay?”.  When he overhears the little harpy in the front row turn around and sneer, “Ooh, Caroline! Did you get a new haircut?”  he snaps in the least responsible, but most instinctive way. 

He strides to the harpy’s desk, whips it ’round to face the other wall, grabs the fire extinguisher on the wall next to her head, yanks it free, and throws it through the glass pane of the window, showering glass everywhere. Then he whips the girl’s desk back ’round, he gives her terrified eyes one long, hard (crazy sanpaku!) stare that says, “What you say has consequences; you won’t always be a little girl forever”, and….he winds up in jail (for the second time in the film. The audience laughs and cheers to see this happening to Tyler again).   Their father, the high-powered lawyer, bails him out.  And Tyler is still grinning as he leaves the gate. So. Worth. It.

It made me remember the time when my brother, after overhearing that I was getting teased on the bus-ride home by an eighth grade boy (I was a new seventh grader, and still  in my fat stage), stepped up on the bus when it pulled up to our house to let me off.  He didn’t throw things or come close to assaulting small children; he just greeted his old bus driver, walked back to where the little shit who was picking on me sat, and said, “Quit messing with my sister.”  Or something to that effect. I’m sure all that Jared (said shithead) noticed was the fact that Caleb was a freshman in high school and obviously farther along in puberty than he.  He never messed with me again–and I knew that he wouldn’t; I felt it to be true when I trailed after Caleb down the bus’s steps, floating halfway.

So that, right there, is the biggest, sweetest hunk of the joyful pie.  But then there’s the romance…

The romantic relationship between Tyler and Alyssa was a  teensy bit rushed. Not like Twilight rushed it (Geez, did I blink and miss the talking?), but just…rushed. I wish some of those conversations that were implied to have happened actuallly did between Tyler and Aly.  The conversations that we did witness were witty, intellectual back-and-forth banter (stichomythia, if you want the literary term) that throws back to Jane Austen’s version of sitting-room foreplay. Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy barely tangled wits better—and they sure as heck didn’t have the societally-endorsed physical permissiveness to make good on their parliance and tangle naked limbs the way these two lovers can.

The sex scene, even fuzzy-framed and fade-to-black enough for the PG-13 rating, was satisfying. And that’s saying something in an era where audiences demand more and more bare, fleshy eroticism.  This union was tender and soulful, complete with some wondering, open-eyed sanpaku stares during kissing that spoke volumes of silent dialogue, and, of course, heralded an afterglow snugglefest to die for–but would have been even more meaningful if the build-up to the bedroom (i.e. the  actual talking!) left nothing to the imagination.

And, while I’m on the negatives:  dammit, Rob! Hire yourself a dialect coach, por favor.  Your supposedly-Bronxian accent headed towards Chicago, Kentucky, Louisiana, and the Barristers’ brogue before it started hitting central Midwestern.  I know you can’t hear the difference yet, because you haven’t actually been to Kentucky or Louisiana or the Midwest, but honey, it shows.  And it takes away the veil of the character just a teensy bit. Luckily, I, and my darling friends, have a good imagination, so we all  just pretended Tyler Hawkins moved around a ton as a kid and had some Barrister blood in him.  That way, it kept the character solid in our heads when the accent went whhhaaa’dyousayyy? Still, it was cute to watch Rob flatten his vowels and work his head around American phraseology. It was just hard to watch him struggle. There were spots where the rhythm of accent was off in terms of where the downbeat falls in certain American pronounciations, though I can’t think of an example right now.  

Pierce Brosnan, a native Irishman, was guilty of this, too, if I’m being fair. And, as happens when you’re not quite sure of yourself while acting in a different accent, Tyler’s dialogue was sometimes missing the natural musicality of Rob’s real speech (which, in  his native accent, is actually musical. Listen to any interview and you’ll here him cross octaves in his pitch range as he searches up and down his soul for answers).  Buuuut, even that flatness can be explained away: Tyler is still actively grieving, and often distracted. It’s easy to deliver a toneless line when you’re only mentally halfway inside a conversation. I’ve done it myself. I’m not sure if Rob did this consciously or not, but it was hard for me to decide, and sometimes distracting because it forced me to think about it.  Of the non-Americans in the cast, only Emile (a native Aussie girl) could boast an American accent that was realistic enough not to draw your notice.

Other than that, the positives were numerous.  Once I allowed myself to relax and adjust to being inside the story, it was easy to forget that Rob was playing Tyler, or that Emilie was playing Aly. They just became their characters in that marvelous way that happens when the actors feel themselves becoming subsumed to the point that the audience becomes connected to the soul of the plot. I think I can pinpoint the moment it happened for me:  It was the scene when Tyler picks a water-fight with Aly (played by the “feisty” Emilie de Ravin–Rob’s words, not mine) at the dingy sink in his apartment with the sprayer while they’re washing dishes, and Aly saucily overturns a pot of pasta-water over his head. Rob, playing Tyler, does not physically give this away by showing signs of anticipation—no flinching, no tensing, no mental over-preparedness for the oncoming onslaught. He simply lets it happen, and then, naturally, reacts. The surprise is natural and unforced.  Suddenly, the script, the stage directions, and Rob’s knowledge of what will happen next in the overarching plot and all its difficulties for him as an actor disappears, and he’s simply in the moment. As Tyler.  And Tyler, in my mind, took over from there, making Rob’s own personality disappear.  And then the movie seemed to live and breathe in its own skin. Below, you can see a clip from the scene.  (Note: 0:37 makes me giggle like mad. What a face!)

And suddenly, I was allowed to just think and react to the story, rather than get distracted by the gratuitous amounts of Robbage. I got to thinking about my relationships to my family, and thought specifically with gratitude on the relationship that I now have with my brother and his wife, my sister-in-law, as I discussed earlier. And then I thought about how easily our anger and disappointment at the ones who we loved that left us in death (my dad) can be turned against ourselves and our surviving, struggling family (my mom), and I had a good, cleansing sob-fest. 

Those brainless preteens in the front row who whined until Rob took his shirt off probably had no idea what was wrong with me.  And they were missing what was so infinitely right about the whole lovely picture. 

So if you want a film that’s not just a romantic drama, but a drama about life, death, family, friends, and even enemies, go see Remember Me.  It’s so packed full of good stuff that, if the dialogue were written in iambic pentameter, it might get passed off as a shaky Shakespearean production.  There’s that much symbolic punch to it. That’s why Film.com’s reviewer called the film “challenging in all the right ways.” But be prepared for a very, very dramatic and unexpected ending that throws it sharply into the realm of the dark Postmodern.  This is not set in Elizabethan England afterall; it’s in nearly modern-day NYC.

And now, I’m off to bed, and finally ready to post this almost week-long work.  If you’ve hung in there and read the whole thing, I congratulate you. 🙂

Sweet Dreams,

Ruth

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