Directed by Allen Coulter
There's something compelling to the ways the two families in Remember Me—the bourgeois Hawkins clan of Brooklyn Heights and the blue-collar Craigs in Forest Hills—face up, hesitantly, uneasily and often unintentionally, to the tragedies that mark their pasts and continually erupt in their present. Loaded with class-appropriate signifiers of New York-ness like allegiances to the Yankees or Mets, tendencies to travel by car service or subway, jobs in sleek Financial District offices or cluttered NYPD stations, each comes with their own domestic analog for the city-wide trauma looming over the film (most of which takes place over the summer of 2001). It's when these private and public disasters very literally crash into each other, in a closing sequence of panning shot, after panning shot, after panning shot that just won't end, that this not unappealing melodrama becomes offensively, unforgettably awful.
The link between Remember Me's two loci of paternal power—the financial might of connected businessman Charles Hawkins (Pierce Brosnan, struggling admirably to hide his British accent under a broad New Yawk inflection) and the thuggish rage of police officer Neil Craig (Chris Cooper)—is Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson), an occasional NYU student full of impotent anger and prone to very poor posture. Early on his sexist (but redeemed!) best buddy (Tate Ellington) deplores, "I've had enough of this brooding introvert shit," enabling Pattinson to carry on with his brooding introvert shit until the penultimate scene. The weight of his older brother's suicide is forever present in his slouching stance, crooked neck, downcast gaze, squinting eyes and expertly disheveled hair. This wounded-puppy demeanor is presumably what lures Ally Craig (Lost's Emilie de Ravin) into Tyler's life and bed, much to her father's consternation. Both are haunted by lost loved ones, and the film's foremost of many tensions becomes the question of whether anyone can help the handsome hot-head Tyler become less of a self-righteous asshole.
Ally's counterpart in this quest is Tyler's younger sister Caroline (Ruby Jerins), the film's most fully realized and subtly portrayed character. A prodigally smart and sensitive elementary school kid, she brings out the best in Tyler, affording Pattinson some moments of incredible charm. When his artistic sister claims Whistler as her favorite painter, Tyler cautions: "He's the Boyz II Men of modern European painting." Of course, shortly thereafter he's quoting Gandhi in voice-over while scribbling into his Moleskine (a symbol of emotional complexity and depth that's regularly shoved conspicuously in front of the camera) about the depths of his unhappiness, so you take what you can get.
And there certainly are pleasures to be found in the rubble. The (t)horny romance between Tyler and Ally—which provides another reason to think that Remember Me might be an urban re-make of American Beauty, Chris Cooper as a constantly seething authority figure being another—plays out in engaging fits and starts with actual, palpable chemistry, something lacking in Pattinson's other screen conquests. The two families' dynamics are always sharply defined and well-developed, often rooted in cliché and convention but never dependent thereupon. These strengths almost compensate for an overlong running time, some egregiously clumsy moments of storytelling—Neil Craig to Tyler: "You're taking a vacation in coach before finding your way back to first class"—and a too narrow focus on Pattinson (who, as executive producer, probably had some sway in this regard) in what might have been a surprisingly compelling cross-class family melodrama with flashes of social satire. That all comes crashing down in the ludicrous finale, which casts two long shadows on Tyler's emotional rebirth and ensures that Remember Me will be remembered as a tragic disaster.
Opens March 12